Children in a village in the Tanga region of Tanzania gather to learn from tablets. They're using software that's easy to download for illiterate children. (AP)

Children in a village in the Tanga region of Tanzania gather to learn from tablets. They're using software that's easy to download for illiterate children. (AP)

XPRIZE director Emily Church speaks during the presentation of the award for Children's Literacy in Los Angeles, California. (AP)

XPRIZE director Emily Church speaks during the presentation of the award for Children's Literacy in Los Angeles, California. (AP)

Leaders and developers from Kitkit School pose with XPRIZE representatives. (AP)

Leaders and developers from Kitkit School pose with XPRIZE representatives. (AP)

Anousheh Ansari, first to fund the original XPRIZE for space tourism and now chief of the XPRIZE Foundation (AP)

Anousheh Ansari, first to fund the original XPRIZE for space tourism and now chief of the XPRIZE Foundation (AP)

Eyes on the XPRIZE

Posted: July 1, 2019

Teams from around the world enter a competition. The stakes are high. Because of their work, kids living in poverty could learn how to read! The winning team must design a computer program. The program must teach kids how to read, write, and do simple math.

The XPRIZE competition has a big goal: better the world through technology. Winning the XPRIZE is a big deal! The prize money comes from billionaires. They want technology to do good things. This year, they want to make worldwide literacy possible. A previous XPRIZE winner made water for dry areas by heating air in shipping containers. Another created health tracking sensors. The very first XPRIZE awarded was for private space flight.

This year, competitors took 15 months to build and test their software. Children from 170 villages in Tanzania gave it a try on tablets. Before the test, only two percent of the children could read at least one sentence. Fifteen months later, 30 percent of the kids had basic reading skills! The XPRIZE finalists were from New York City; Pittsburgh; Berkeley; London, England; and Bangalore, India.

So—WHO WON? It was a tie! Teams from the United States and the United Kingdom both won first place. They split the $10 million prize money and agreed to work together. The other finalists were give $1 million each.

One thing is sure. The winners are going to be busy! They have to put their inventions to work. The new software was uploaded to the internet. Anyone can use it for free.

Emily Musil Church is XPRIZE’S executive director of prize operations. She was stunned that so many competitors completed the mission. “From the beginning we weren’t sure any would work at all,” she says, adding with a chuckle: “All our experts said, ‘Are you sure about this?’”

A lot of people had their eyes on the XPRIZE. As Christians, our eyes are fixed on an eternal prize!

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. ― Philippians 3:14