​XPRIZE eyes adult literacy: Can mobile apps move the needle?

XPRIZE and its partners are offering $7 million to teams that can develop mobile apps that improve adult literacy in a year.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

XPRIZE, which specializes global competitions that award money to address issues, is offering $7 million to teams that create mobile applications that will improve adult literacy in a year.

The organization is best known for contests to create tricorders, land on the moon and improve ocean health, but the adult literacy effort could have a large social impact.

XPRIZE said the money is being offered in partnership with the Barbara Bush Foundation for Literacy and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

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According to Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, CEO of XPRIZE, said in a statement that 36 million adults in the U.S. lack basic literacy skills and that sum is larger around the world. The argument is that current educational efforts won't scale to the challenge. These tools would presumably be available on tablets and smartphones.

Teams will have a six-month registration period and then the selected groups have 18 months to develop their literacy tools. The top five teams go to a field testing stage for a year. The mobile apps will be tested with a minimum of 1,000 adults 18 to 64 reading below a third grade reading level.

XPRIZE will offer a $4 million grand prize over a year an bonus prizes of $500,000 each for addressing literacy in native English speakers and non-natives.

Once those awards go out, cities will compete to get adults to download and use the apps.

Here's the timeline:

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