Xprize Launches $7mil Competiton for Adult Literacy Mobile Apps


XPrize is collaborating with the Barbara Bush Foundation and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation to offer a $7 million prize for the design of mobile apps targeting adult literacy improvement.

With 36 million American adults having a third-grade reading level and just one in one hundred of those being enrolled in a literacy class, the urgency for improving literacy levels among adults is pronounced.

The XPrize competition incentivizes the development of engaging mobile programs that will keep adult learners hooked for a long enough period for the learning experience to have an impact. Jennifer Bravo, who is leading the XPrize competition development, says about adult learners:

“They have busy lives and don’t go to class, or they can’t access those classes, which crates a problem for persistence,” Bravo says. “There’s also the stigma … Maybe they want to use a mobile app because there’s an element of not wanting anybody to know.”

The mobile app development teams participating in the competition will have to design apps that can in just under a year make low-literate adults achieve basic literacy competency. Emphasizing the impact of parent literacy on a child’s educational potential, Barbara Bush said:

“A parent’s literacy level is a significant predictor of their child’s future educational success, influencing generations to follow,” she said. “I am inspired and hopeful that this Adult Literacy XPRIZE will bring about a radical breakthrough to end the cycle of low-literacy in America and that my grandchildren will grow up in a country where education is abundant and accessible to all.”

The six-month registration period ends in December 2015 with app development to begin in 2016. Teams will have one and a half years to develop their educational apps. Then, third-party expert judges will select the top five teams who will proceed to a twelve month field test of their product.

The apps will be tested with at least one thousand adult learners ages 18 to 64 with a third-grade reading level or lower.

The top-performing mobile app will receive the $4 million prize, and finalist teams will receive smaller prizes. Prizes will be given for mobile apps targeting both Native English speakers and non-native speakers.

According to the Barbara Bush Foundation, a one percent rise in literacy scores can improve labor productivity by $225 billion per year.

Once launched, cities across the country will appeal to adult learners to download the winning apps. The city that achieves the highest percentage of mobile app download and use will receive a $1 million prize.  In the fall of 2014, XPrize launched a children’s literacy competition for $15 million.

XPrize is an organization that seeks to solve the planet’s greatest challenges including education, energy and space exploration. The organization does so through incentivized prize competitions. The most recent and active XPrize competition is the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE for the development of a robotic spacecraft that can travel to the moon.

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