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$10M prize to be awarded for tech that teaches illiterate to read

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LOS ANGELES — The challen e was to develop software that could easily be down oaded onto tablets that p or children around the wo ld could use to teach the selves to read, write and do simple arithmetic The incentive was $10 million for the winner

Nearly 200 teams from 40 ountries around the world jumped at the chance to b come the latest winner of an XPRIZE, a coveted inte national award funded by uture-looking entrepreneu s, billionaires and phila thropists who have banded together with the goal of making the world a better place through technology After 15 months of buildi g software, putting it on tablets and having thousa ds of children in 141 rem te villages in Tanzania t st it, judges narrowed th competition for the XPRI E For Global Learning to ive final teams from New ork City; Pittsburgh; Ber eley; London; and Bangalo e, India The winner, to be announc d Wednesday, will take ho e both the money and a ma date to develop plans for putting that cash to work getting tablets into the ands of children in impov rished places all over th world And by Thursday t e winner must upload to t e internet the code they reated for the technology so anyone can have free a cess to it All five finalists develo ed functional software th t will go on the web, sai Emily Musil Church, XPRI E’s executive director of prize operations

It was n accomplishment, she ack owledged, that stunned bo h her and other XPRIZE le ders who fretted for a ti e that no one would be ab e to pull it off “From the beginning we we en’t sure any would work t all,” she said, adding ith a chuckle: “All our e perts said, ‘Are you sure about this?’” While it was a tough deci ion to pick a winner from that field, she said, som technology did rise abov the others Not that any XPRIZE compe ition is easy “Our specialty is making ure we frame the problem n a way that is audacious but at the same time achi vable and really advances the field,” said XPRIZE F undation CEO Anousheh Ans ri, who funded the first rize, also for $10 millio , for private space fligh Elon Musk put up the mo ey for this one

The Ansari prize’s winnin team of Microsoft co-fou der Paul Allen and aviati n pioneer Burt Rutan need d nearly a decade to acco plish their space-travel oal, but they created a n w industry by sending the r privately piloted Space hipOne into space in 2004 Since then the XPRIZE Fou dation has funded more th n a dozen other prizes fo those pursuing such inno ations as making water fo drought-stricken areas b heating air in shipping ontainers, creating senso s that allow people to tr ck their health in real t me and developing advance ways to study ocean cont mination The five finalists for th latest prize have been i volved in literacy progra s and some said even if t ey don’t win they hope to continue the work the com etition inspired, adding hey want to see the softw re translated into dozens of languages that can be sed all over the world an adapted to smartphones a well as tablets The lan uages available are Engli h and Swahili, both widel spoken in Tanzania The finalist teams had al been working on technolo ies to benefit learning a d had heard about the com etition in various ways They had to develop progr ms filled with games that could grab the children’s attention and then, like eachers do, use drawings, letters, numbers and soun s to teach them to teach hemselves

XPRIZE officials said the teams’ work met with subs antial success, noting on y two percent of particip nts could read at least o e sentence in Swahili whe the work began Fifteen onths later they reported that number was 30 percen “And we’re talking on ave age 9 or 10 years old, no 3 or 4 years,” said Chur h, adding most of the par icipants had never been t school, although many sa d they now want to go Church said the tablets c n fill a void in areas wh re classes are overcrowde , there are no schools or children from impoverishe families believe there’s no point in even attendin classes “There’s something about he transformation of the uman spirit,” said Church adding that’s what she w tnessed during the tests

“Really unlocking what th se children see is possib e We saw that over and o er again”

Source: Youtube

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