SA team makes semi-final of $15m Elon Musk-funded prize

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Pretoria-based team Leap to Know is one of 11 semi-finalists for the global XPRIZE, a US$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 will have one month to update and finalise their solutions before the judges select five finalist teams to proceed to the final round of the competition.

Leap to Know is one of those 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 alongside 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 to each receive a US$1 million milestone award. With the competition’s global partnerships including the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the government of Tanzania, the teams’ solutions will be field-tested with 4,000 children in 150 villages in the Tanga region of Tanzania for approximately 15 months on 8,000 Pixel C tablets donated by Google.

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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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent’s most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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