East African Education Platform, Ubongo Wins ‘Next Billion’ Edtech Prize in Dubai

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Ubongo, a platform that creates fun, localised and multi-platform educational media that reaches millions of families through accessible technologies, has won the ‘Next Billion’ Edtech Prize. The prize is run by philanthropic group, The Varkey Foundation to recognise the most innovative technology destined to have a radical impact on education in low income and emerging world countries.

The Next Billion Edtech Prize, which comes five years after the Varkey Foundation founded the $1 million Global Teacher Prize, was awarded for the first time at the GESF 2018. The GESF brings together over 2,000 delegates from around the world to solve the big questions in global education.

Ubongo was voted for by delegates at The Global Education & Skills Forum (GESF) 2019 from three startup finalists which include PraxiLabs and Dost. All three winners were awarded $25,000.

Dost is a platform that empowers parents of any literacy level to take charge of their child’s early education, creating short, friendly audio content that is sent to parents via their mobile phones

PraxiLab is a system that provides virtual laboratories for schools and learning organizations in the Middle East and beyond.

“We’re delighted to have won the Next Billion Prize. We’re already having an impact reaching children but this award will mean we can do so much more. By 2022 we plan to reach 30 million children in Africa and our ultimate goal is to reach 440 million – every child in Africa,” said Ubongo Chief Business Officer Doreen Kessy.

Ubongo leverages the power of entertainment, the reach of mass media, and the connectivity of mobile devices, to deliver effective, localized learning to African families at low cost and massive scale. Its family-friendly content promotes literacy and education in resource-poor areas. Cartoons are a central part of its story telling approach.

“We are thrilled to be one of the top three winners for this prize, this is a priceless opportunity for us to help build awareness of our mission of providing the world with more scientists,” noted PraxiLabs Founder Khadija Elbedweihy.

“It’s really exciting to bring Dost to the global stage at GESF, it motivates us even more to keep working on our mission to help parents to unlock their child’s full potential,” commented Dost CEO Sneha Sheth.

Thirty startups were selected to pitch for the Next Billion Edtech Prize, which focuses on low income and emerging economies. The winners were chosen from six finalists which included FinEazy (UK), Signa (Brazil), and Sabaq (Pakistan).

Led by TechCrunch Editor-at-Large Mike Butcher, an expert panel of judges made up of venture capitalists, philanthropic investors, experts in Edtech and learning sciences, and senior education policy makers selected the winners from the final 30.

The jury selected three winners from six finalists who pitched on the main GESF stage on Sunday morning. The audience voted on who should lift the trophy.

This GESF prize identifies, spotlights and celebrates the world’s leading EdTech startups that have shown through ingenuity and innovation that they can improve learning in parts of the world where there is limited access to good quality teaching.

According to UNESCO, 264 million children do not have access to schooling, while at least 600 million more are “in school but not learning”. These are children who are not achieving even basic skills in maths and reading, which the World Bank calls a “learning crisis”.

“Over a billion young people – a number growing every day – are being denied what should be the birthright of every single child in the 21st century, no matter where they live: a good education that allows them to make the most of their God-given talents,” Sunny Varkey, Founder of the Varkey Foundation and the Next Billion Prize said.

“We use the ‘Next Billion Prize’ to highlight technology’s potential to tackle the problems that have proven too difficult for successive generations of politicians to solve. Our fervent hope is that the prize inspires practical and persistent entrepreneurs the world over to come forward with fresh tech ideas. These ideas must be hardy enough to improve education in regions where young people are denied access to a good quality teacher and a great learning environment,” Varkey added.


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