South African startup among semi-finalists in Elon Musk-funded competition to develop solutions to illiteracy


Pretoria-based team Leap to Know is one of 11 semi-finalists for the global XPRIZE, a $15 million competition funded by Elon Musk aiming to develop open source and scalable software that will enable children in developing countries to teach themselves basic reading, writing and arithmetic within 15 months.

The semi-finalists were chosen by an independent judging panel of 11 experts from a field of 198 teams following XPRIZE’s initial launch in September 2014.  Semi-finalists then will have one month to update and finalize their solutions before the judges select five finalist teams to proceed to the final round of the competition.

Leap to Know is among the competition 11 semi-finalists. The team is developing an app rich with culturally relevant stories that help to build learning foundations for children at different education levels.

Included among the other 10 selected team is the US-based onebillion, which works in Malawi and Tanzania to merge numeracy content with new literacy material to offer directed learning and creative activities.  Services also include continuous monitoring to respond to different children’s needs.

“Throughout my career, I’ve seen the many ways technology has evolved to help children access an education they may otherwise not have,” said Matt Keller, senior director of the Global Learning XPRIZE.

“What most excites XPRIZE about these semi-finalist teams is the possibility that their innovative software solutions can exponentially transform the way learning happens across the world, especially in places where children simply cannot get to school.”

In September, five finalist teams will be selected, and each will receive a $1 million milestone award.  The teams will 15 months to test their solutions with 4,000 children in 150 villages in the Tanga region of Tanzania, using Pixel C tablets donated by Google. The competition partners include the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the government of Tanzania.

At the end of the field-testing phase, the team whose solution enables the greatest proficiency gains in reading, writing and arithmetic will receive the Grand Prize of US$10 million, to be announced in April 2019. In addition, each of the five finalists will be required to open source both their code and their content which will be free and available for anyone to build on.

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Joanes Legiste

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