Elon Musk awarded two startups with $10 million after they won a competition to create technology that enables children to teach themselves how to read and write on their own.
The two winners — kid's learning-focused startups onebillion and Kitkit School — will split the $10 million prize money in two. They were among five finalists to make it through to the final stages of XPrize's competition for Global Learning. Musk is a sponsor of this award.
Launched in 2014, the competition was set up to empower children to take control of their learning. It challenged innovators around the world to create technology that would enable children to teach themselves basic reading, writing, and arithmetic within 15 months.
The five finalists were asked to test their technology solutions; each team received $1 million to do so.
Nearly 3,000 children took part in the test, which took place in 170 villages in Tanzania. The idea was that these children should improve their reading and writing in Swahili within the 15-month time frame.
According to XPrize, 74% of these 3,000 children had never attended school before the test took place, 80% had never been read to at home, and over 90% could not read a single word in Swahili. But after 15 months of learning on Pixel tablets, that number was cut in half, it said.
"Education is a fundamental human right, and we are so proud of all the teams and their dedication and hard work to ensure every single child has the opportunity to take learning into their own hands," Anousheh Ansari, CEO of XPRIZE, said in a statement to the press this week.
Musk tweeted: "Congratulations @kitkitschool & @onebillion on creating great open source literacy software!"
Musk also has his own private charitable foundation. The details on its website are scant. However, documents obtained by The Guardian earlier this year showed that the foundation has given more money to artificial intelligence research than to any of the more traditional charities it says it supports, which are renewable energy research and advocacy, human space exploration research and advocacy, pediatric research, and science and engineering education.