109 Teams are Changing the Face of Adult Education

Feb 03 2016

Shlomy Kattan, PhD

XPRIZE competitions are always about the competing teams. Over the years, we’ve been fortunate to attract competitors who represent the best in their fields, and whose creativity, intelligence, and efforts led to breakthroughs often surpassing what we imagined when launching a prize. The solutions these teams created changed our understanding of what’s possible and impacted the lives of millions of people around the world. I’m reminded of this every time I meet a team and hear the novel approaches these groups apply to tackling some of humanity’s Grand Challenges.

Seven months ago, we launched the $7M Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE presented by Dollar General Literacy Foundation to solve one of the greatest educational, economic, and social challenges we face as a species. Over 780 million adults worldwide—roughly 16% of the global adult population—lack the basic literacy skills necessary to survive and succeed in today’s economy. By incentivizing teams to develop educational software for these low-literate individuals, we want to prove the feasibility of autonomous mobile learning for some of the most underserved members of society, thereby catalyzing investment and innovation in this market. 

On December 10, 2015, we closed the team registration phase of the Adult Literacy XPRIZE with over 700 pre-registered and 109 registered teams from 15 countries. These teams represent a deep and exciting pool of competitors whose talents and skills provide our best hope yet for solving this problem.

Among the competitors are leading education technology companies, top-tier academic institutions, non-profits, startups, and teams formed by middle and high school students. With 85 teams from the United States representing 27 states, the Adult Literacy XPRIZE represents the largest domestic competitor pool of any XPRIZE competition. The engagement from such a broad group of competitors is a testament to the importance of this prize and its potential to impact the world. 

Competing teams have until December 2016 to turn in their final submissions. Up to 15 of those submissions will be selected by an independent judging panel to participate in a field test with thousands of adult learners in three cities across the U.S.

The $3 million Grand Prize will be awarded to the team with the best performance across all adult learners over the 12-month field test. Two $1 million Achievement Prizes will also be awarded to the two teams with the best performance in each of the two key demographic groups: native English speakers and English language learners. All of the five finalist teams will share an additional $500,000 in prizes, while another $500,000 prize purse will be split among all finalist teams that meet a minimum performance benchmark.

Following the awarding of the Grand Prize, cities across the U.S. will compete to encourage their adult learners to download and use the winning applications. A $1 million prize will be awarded to the city that encourages the greatest percentage of its adult learners to download and use any of the finalist solutions over a six-month period.

I’m excited for 2016 and for what teams will build to help solve the challenge of adult low-literacy—first in the United States and then globally. Individually and collectively, these competitors are a force for positive change.

Shlomy Kattan is Senior Director of the $7M Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE presented by Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

Shlomy Kattan, PhD