A California company and a British-based group are sharing a $10 million award for developing programs to help children teach themselves how to read. The two winners are the Kitkit School, based in Berkeley, California, and the educational nonprofit organization onebillion of London.

Nearly 200 teams from 40 countries entered the competition. They sought to become the latest winner of an XPRIZE. Money for the international award comes from inventors, billionaires and philanthropists. Their aim is to make the world a better place through technology.

Businessman Elon Musk announced the two winners at a ceremony Wednesday night in Los Angeles, California. The event recognized and honored all five of the finalists. The XPRIZE For Global Learning was worth $15 million, with the money coming from Musk. Each finalist received $1 million. The two winners each received an additional $5 million.

The goal of the competition was to develop an open-source software program, which was put on computer tablets donated by Google. Then the devices were given to thousands of children in 170 villages in Tanzania for testing.

When testing began, XPRIZE officials said only two percent of the children could read a simple sentence in Swahili, their native language. But 15 months later, 30 percent of the children had gained basic reading skills.

Both winning teams said the hardest part was developing software at their home bases, putting it on tablets and hoping the children would understand how to use it.

All five finalists developed operational, open-source software, which will be put on the internet for anyone to use. Judges decided that the two winners did the best when it came to producing results.

The winners of the prize Wednesday night will now get to work making their software available to as many people as possible. Kitkit’s efforts will include making a version of its software for smartphones, which are widely used in many developing countries. And, onebillion wants to offer its software in a number of languages to reach as many people as possible.

Judith Hermetter is onebillion’s chief of communications. She said the software will mean a lot to users around the world.

“This will be transformational for them, their communities and their countries.”

Exercise 1


Read the following vocabulary with your teacher.

philanthropist - n. a wealthy person who gives money and time to help make life better for other people

source - n. a person, book, etc., that gives information

tablet - n. a flat, rectangular computing device that is used for connecting to the Internet, watching videos, reading books, etc.

transformational - adj. relating to a complete or major change in someone's or something's appearance, form, etc.



Exercise 2


Answer these questions about the article.

1. Who are the two winners of the competition?

2. Who announced the two winners?

3. What was the goal of the competition?

4. How will the winners develop their winning projects in the future?



Exercise 3

Make a sentence.

Make sentences using these words.

philantropist, source, tablet, transformational


Exercise 4


Have a discussion on following questions.

1. What do you think about the XPRIZE award and the winning projects?

2. How can technology be used to change the world for the better?

3. If you could develop a project to help someone, who would you help?

4. Have you ever joined competitions?


This lesson is based on a news article originally published by VOA.