Nigerian online video learning startup dot Learn has secured US$25,000 after being named one of the winners of the inaugural Next Billion ed-tech prize, which recognised innovative solutions that could have a radical impact on education in low-income and emerging world countries.
Instituted by the Varkey Foundation, the Next Billion competition saw 40 startups pitch, which were eventually narrowed down to six finalists.
Out of these, dot Learn was named winner alongside TeachMeNow from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Chatterbox from the United Kingdom (UK), with each winner awarded US$25,000 and the opportunity to pilot their technology in partner schools in South Africa’s Western Cape province.
dot Learn, which last year won US$75,000 at a challenge organised by Cisco, makes online video e-learning accessible on slow, expensive internet connections for users in low-income countries. Its technology reduces the file-size of learning videos, requiring 1/100th of the bandwidth to watch.
“The issue isn’t so much the lack of internet but the cost of internet. We are going to make online learning work for the next billion by making it as affordable and accessible as text messaging,” said the startup’s chief executive officer (CEO) Sam Bhattacharyya.
All startups pitched to an expert panel of judges, made up of venture capitalists, philanthropic investors, experts in ed-tech and learning sciences, and senior education policymakers, as well as a live voting audience of Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF) delegates made up of leading education figures from public, private and social sectors.
“Over one billion young people – a number growing every day – are being denied what should be the birthright of every single child in the 21st century, no matter where they live: a good education that allows them to make the most of their God-given talents,” Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation and the Next Billion Prize, said.
“We have launched the Next Billion Prize to highlight technology’s potential to tackle the problems that have proven too difficult for successive generations of politicians to solve. Our fervent hope is that the prize inspires practical and persistent entrepreneurs the world over to come forward with fresh tech ideas. These ideas must be hardy enough to improve education in regions where young people are denied access to a good quality teacher and a great learning environment.”