You get what you incentivise’. This is one of the core beliefs driving XPRIZE, a global organisation which designs incentivised prize competitions that spur innovation and technologica l advancement.
The Google Lunar XPRIZE, for example, aims to “open a new era of lunar travel” by decreasing the cost of access to the moon and space. The Global Learning XPRIZE, on the other hand, is seeking to solve a more down-to-earth human problem – access to education. The competition is challenging teams to develop open-source and scalable software that will enable children in developing countries to teach themselves elementary reading, writing and arithmetic skills – essentially empowering them to take charge of their own basic education.
Matt Keller, senior director of the Global Learning XPRIZE, says that more than 300 teams from 60 countries – including 75 entries from Africa – are currently competing for the juicy $10m (R116mn) Global Learning XPRIZE.
“XPRIZE had been looking to do an education prize for several years because we believe that a root cause of poverty, conf lict and inequality is the lack of access by hundreds of millions of children worldwide to quality learning experiences,” he explains. “Because we believe that technology presents opportunities for scale that traditional means do not, we began to design a prize based on the belief that children need access to learning, and that technology allows that access at scale.”
The top five entries will receive $1m (R11.6mn) and advance to the next phase, where their solutions will be field-tested in rural villages in East Africa over 18 months. The team whose solution yields the greatest proficiency gains in reading, writing and arithmetic (measured against a control group) will receive $10m.
With the organisation’s impressive track record of producing breakthrough ideas and solutions, educators and entrepreneurs alike are undoubtedly keeping a close eye on this particular prize.
“The XPRIZE model is successful because the competitions are open to all individuals and groups – regardless of experience or expertise – who have great ideas, the passion to solve a grand challenge and the means by which to do so,” says Keller. “Even the teams that don’t win help to provide technologies and ideas that are adopted by others.
“Whether it was technology produced to create a car that would go 100 miles on a gallon of gas or ideas that went into developing a better way to clean up oil spills; what comes out of an XPRIZE is often far greater than what we anticipate.”