Four e-learning and education technology start-ups from India are among 30 global finalists to compete for the Next Billion EdTech Prize, to be announced next month. India’s Augmented Learning, Aveti Learning, Utter and Dost were chosen to compete for the prize, which will involve them competing in a pitch contest at the annual Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF) in Dubai on March 22-24.
Six of the 30 start-ups will be selected to return to the main GESF stage for the grand final in front of judges and a live audience, with the best three awarded USD 25,000 each and the winner being presented with the Next Billion Prize trophy. “There’s no doubt India is set to be a leading player on the global EdTech stage, with innovation currently sweeping across its education sector,” said Vikas Pota, CEO of Tmrw Digital, which runs the Next Billion Prize. “Falling mobile data prices and high mobile penetration are opening up opportunities for mobile learning that can reach even the most disadvantaged students, and the online learning market alone is set to hit USD 2 billion by 2021. Our four Indian finalists are part of this wave of innovation, and we’re excited to hear their stories come March,” he said.
The Next Billion Prize was named to remind the world of a billion young people – a number growing every day – that are being denied an education, the organisers said. “The Next Billion Prize was created to shine a light on those gifted entrepreneurs that are not only ingenious, but also bold and persistent enough to bring forward the revolutionary ideas that are desperately needed to transform education in those parts of the world where there is limited access to high quality teaching,” added Pota.
Among the shortlisted Indian start-ups, Augmented Learning runs a digital platform to develop 21st century skills and competencies with a daily stream of current affairs and personalised interest areas, incorporating adjustable reading levels and engaging activities. Aveti Learning Limited offers Shikhya as a flagship e-learning program aimed at providing high-quality digital education to underprivileged students in India in more than 15 regional languages. Fellow-finalist Utter is a mobile platform that blends chatbots and live tutoring for training in English and workplace skills and Dost works to empower parents of any literacy level to take charge of their child’s early education, creating short, friendly audio content.
“The Next Billion Prize highlights technology’s potential to tackle the problems that have proven too difficult for successive generations of politicians to solve,” said Indian-origin entrepreneur Sunny Varkey, founder of the Next Billion Prize. “The power to change education systems at all levels no longer lies exclusively in the hands of the political and business elite through the traditional models of global policymaking. Changemakers can be those who work away from the spotlight in start-ups located across the world,” he said.
The 30 finalists will pitch to an expert panel of judges, made up of venture capitalists, philanthropic investors, educators, and experts in EdTech and learning sciences. They will also pitch to a live audience of GESF delegates, made up of leading education figures from public, private and social sectors. The annual GESF event brings together over 1,500 delegates from around the world to deliberate on some of the pressing issues in global education, culminating in the award of the Next Billion Edtech Prize and the USD 1-million Global Teacher Prize.