UK team joint winner of $15m Global Learning XPrize for non-profit learning software

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Software developed to help children around the world to teach themselves reading, writing and arithmetic – and backed by academics at The University of Nottingham – is joint winner of a multi-million dollar competition funded by the US technology entrepreneur Elon Musk.

The onecourse software developed by the UK non-profit organisation onebillion and team Kitkit School were jointly announced as the grand prize winners of $10 million purse in the Global Learning XPRIZEat a ceremony in Los Angeles on Wednesday 15 May.

The competition involved an unprecedented field trial in Tanzania that was carried out by the Tanzanian Government, UNESCO and the World Food Programme.

Significant learning improvements

Thousands of children with little to no formal education were given tablets to test the five finalist software solutions over a period of 15 months.

The UK non-profit’s software onecourse, which was developed by onebillion in collaboration with a considerable number of local and international experts, delivered significant improvements in both literacy and numeracy.

onecourse is already being used by school children in Malawi through the Unlocking Talent initiative run by international development agency VSO. The app teaches children to read, write and become numerate, and helps teachers ensure children are learning despite the very large classes found across the developing world.

I am thrilled with the result of the Global Learning XPRIZE as it acknowledges all the tremendous work that onebillion, VSO, and our other partners are doing to give children worldwide a chance to learn, through evidence-based practice. Millions of children worldwide are deprived of the opportunity to learn to read, write and be numerate and this impacts on their ability to stay in education, gain meaningful employment, and contribute actively to society. This prize will address the Global Learning crisis by offering a scalable and sustainable innovative solution which has been shown, scientifically, to be highly effective. The hard work now begins in scaling this technology to enable every child, wherever they are, the chance to reach their full potential.
Professor Nicola Pitchford, lead academic on the one billion project

Philip Goodwin, CEO of VSO said: “What these results show is that onecourseis a real solution. A solution to the stubborn challenge of illiteracy and innumeracy that undermines the potential of more than 350 million children worldwide. Through our Unlocking Talent project in Malawi, we’ve seen first-hand how the combination of VSO’s skilled education volunteers and project management together with onebillion’s innovative technology can secure great outcomes for children.

“We are excited to be continuing to work with onebillion to see how this very exciting software can be used throughout Malawi and beyond.”

onebillion is now working with the XPRIZE Foundation, the UK’s Department for International Development, local governments and other international partners to localise the software into the world’s languages and provide children, who are currently missing out on education, with a viable solution to becoming literate and numerate.

Onebillion being used in classrooms in Malawi

Andrew Ashe, CEO of onebillion, added: “Business as usual is no longer acceptable. With winning the Global Learning XPRIZE, we are at the starting line, not the finish. For children in Tanzania, for children across Africa, for children all over the world, and for us.”

“The goal is to give all children the education that is their human right. We have the software to make it happen. We have the hardware to make it happen. We have the implementation models to make it happen. Now we need to use them,” said Jamie Stuart, CTO at onebillion.



Story credits

More informationis available from Professor Nicola Pirchford in the School of Psychology, University of Nottingham 

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The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage, consistently ranked among the world's top 100. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our 44,000 students - Nottingham was named both Sports and International University of the Year in the  2019 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, was awarded gold in the TEF 2017 and features in the top 20 of all three major UK rankings. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer, proud of our Athena SWAN silver award, and a key industry partner- locally and globally.

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