Tanzanian start-up Ubongo, an education and entertainment (edutainment) media platform that reaches millions of families through accessible technologies, has won the ‘Next Billion’ Edtech Prize at the 2019 edition of the Global Education & Skills Forum.
The Next Billion Edtech Prize is an award launched by The Varkey Foundation which was founded last year by India’s billionaire Sunny Varkey. The award seeks to recognise the most innovative technology that is creating a radical impact on education in low income and emerging world markets.
The start-up was among 10 African startups that made the shortlist of the 30 finalists selected to pitch for the Prize. The other African startups named as finalists were Eneza Education , eLimu, M-Shule, Mtabe, Etudesk, LangBot, ScholarX, and Zelda.
Following a competitive pitch, Ubongo emerged victorious beating six other finalists including FinEazy, Signa, and Sabaq. An expert panel of judges led by TechCrunch Editor-at-Large Mike Butcher and made up of venture capitalists, philanthropic investors, experts in Edtech and learning sciences, and senior education policymakers voted for Ubongo as the overall winner of the Prize. Ubongo was awarded the Next Billion Prize trophy and US$25,000 in prize money.
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 executive officer (CEO) Nisha Ligon.
India's Dost and Egyptian virtual science lab developer Praxilabs, which has developed a product that makes virtual science labs accessible, usable, and affordable for educational institutions and schools also walked away with US$25,000 each after being named winners of the Next Billion Ed-Tech Prize.Ubongo's Uniqueness
Founded in 2013 by Nisha Ligon in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Ubongo has created a unique way of acquring knowledge by combining entertainment with learning material. Ubongo leverages on the power of entertainment, availability of mobile and digital devices as well as the reach of mass media to deliver personalised learning to children in a fun, affordable, and effective way as opposed to the conventional mode of learning. It has been designed to help primary school children to develop skills in STEM subjects as well as numeracy, pre-literacy, language and socio-emotional skills.
Localization of the learning material has enabled Ubongo to minimise costs whch means that families that low-income earning families can afford to educate their children. The Platform currently reaches over 5 million families weekly through various channels which include TV, radio, web, and mobile. The fact that Tanzanian animators and voice actors produce the show is also an added advantage as it allows viewers to relate to the characters and scenes.
Photo Credit: Tom Jackson