Elon Musk is widely considered one of the most innovative minds of his generation. He has made a name for himself by creating innovative solutions to unsolvable problems. And that is why he is offering up $10 million to whoever can create an App that will effectively combat illiteracy in impoverished communities.
In 2014, Musk set aside $15 million in order to create his own XPRIZE contest that would focus on developing software in order to fight illiteracy for poor children in a cost-effective and efficient way. Hundreds of teams submitted proposals outlining their plans for Android tablet apps designed to teach poor and illiterate children how to read. After combing through the flood of ideas, five finalists were chosen. Each of the finalists was then given a million dollars to put their plan into action, testing the tech in poor communities in Tanzania. Google donated 800 tablets to help the finalists put plans in place.
After four years of working tirelessly in the field, one of the five finalists will finally be awarded the big prize in April of 2019. The winner will receive $10 million from Musk to to scale-up and launch their plan. The semi-finalists programs will be open-sourced so that developers can use the code and potentially further innovate and develop the ideas. According to Business Insider, XPRIZE will help the winning software become accessible to over 250 million children around the world.
The XPRIZE Foundation was founded by Peter Diamandis in 2004 with the goal of using contests with large cash prizes to lure the best minds from the private sector to tackle societal ills such as poverty or disease. Since its founding, XPRIZE has completed seven successful campaigns with eight more currently in progress, including Musk’s.
Whether or not Musk’s bold initiative works out, illiteracy remains a massive problem for poor children. In 2015, it was estimated that 781 million adults over the age of 15, worldwide, could not read or write. That staggering number has roots in early childhood. Kids born into poverty have significantly reduced chances of being given the resources to learn to read or write. Some kids never even get to go to school at all.