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onecourse is a comprehensive, personalised app for children to become numerate and confident readers in their own language.

onecourse is onebillion's response to the global education challenge: a comprehensive, adaptive course which enables children anywhere in the world to become literate and numerate in their own language. The software is designed to be autonomous, meaning children can progress to reading fluency and numeracy without adult supervision.

HundrED 2022


HundrED has selected this innovation to

HundrED 2022

HundrED 2021

HundrED 2020

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July 2023
Let’s work together to get this generation of the world’s children reading

About the innovation

What is onecourse?

In developing countries, lack of funding can mean understaffed schools and under qualified teachers. In Sub-Saharan Africa, a rapidly increasing school-age population means that almost 69 million new teachers need to be trained by 2030. Classes tend to be very large, with the average class in Malawi containing 70 children, meaning children must share textbooks as well as the attention of the teacher. This impacts a child’s education and life chances.

onebillion is a non-profit organisation with the goal of bringing quality maths and literacy education to one billion children in need worldwide.

The innovation – onecourse – is modular, giving the child a personalized and comprehensive learning experience. The child learns at their own pace, building the literacy and numeracy skills gradually.

onecourse was recently announced joint winner of the Elon Musk sponsored $15 million Global Learning XPRIZE, a competition designed to challenge teams from around the world to develop a learning solution which allows children to teach themselves to read, write and do basic arithmetic. The competition involved a 15-month testing phase which saw 2,000 children from 141 rural villages in Tanzania using the finalists’ software until April 2019.

Research conducted by UNESCO and the World Food Program found that "at the beginning of the Global Learning XPRIZE field test, less than 10% of the participating children could read a single world in Swahili. After the field test, 45% of these children could read a word, with 30% reading full sentences."

The onecourse numeracy material is currently available in over 50 languages and starts from the very beginning with exercises such as sorting and matching. The carefully structured material is packed with colorful and engaging activities, which are designed to give practice in core math concepts. With guidance and instant feedback, children can progress through the next concepts and revise difficult topics.

The onecourse literacy material is ambitious, working towards children teaching themselves to read from the very beginning, gradually progressing to a point where they are able to read with comprehension. It is currently available in 4 languages – Swahili, English, French and Chichewa – with more in the pipeline. The software is modular, meaning the course is well structured and the difficulty level is built up slowly in line with the child’s ability. Key learning units are also re-presented so children are able to repeat important lessons they struggle with.

One of the central goals is to instill a love of reading, so onecourse includes a graded library of stories suitable for different reading abilities. Stories from local authors also feature, to ensure a mix of tales from around the world.

Children with learning difficulties or memory issues can also benefit from onecourse, as it facilitates as much repetition and practice as they need.

Recent academic research also showed that boys and girls in Malawi learn maths equally well through onebillion's app, countering a global trend of gender differences.

onebillion has also developed onetab – a dedicated learning device that offers reading, writing and numeracy in one simple package. It is robust and comes in a durable protective case with an optional solar charger. It boots straight into onecourse, in the correct language, and gives extra tuition on tablet usage for first time users. onetab is already being implemented at scale in Malawi, Tanzania, South Africa, Canada, Lebanon and the United States in both school and community settings.

onebillion is now supporting partners to scale onetab exponentially to reach children across the world, empowering them to learn autonomously whether they have access to formal schooling or not.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability

Onebillion apps are a full, coherent course, starting right at the beginning and going step by step at the pace of the child. Many schools where the app is used have no textbooks and no access to any other training facilities. The literacy course is currently available in English, Swahili and Chichewa, while the maths course is available in over 50 languages.

HundrED Academy Reviews
This is an outstanding program. The non-profit nature of improving education through positive use of technology (via tablets) is amazing. This is a game changer.
This is the best innovation I've seen! Language barrier is the key impediment to Africa's problem of advancement and development and this innovation can definitely break that barrier. The innovation is also flexible. children can learn on their own and the device is simple to use.
- Academy member
Academy review results
High Impact
Low Scalability
High Impact
High Scalability
Low Impact
Low Scalability
Low Impact
High Scalability
Read more about our selection process


Introducing onetab
BBC Click in Malawi & Tanzania with onebillion
Meet The Winners Of Elon Musk's $15 Million XPRIZE To End Global Illiteracy
onebillion | Global Learning XPRIZE
onebillion is one of five finalists in the Global Learning XPRIZE competition: https://learning.xprize.org/prizes/global-learning/teams/onebillionOur software onecourse is trialled with out-of-school children in Tanzania over 15 months, with implementation and research carried out by the World Food Programme and UNESCO. The field test ends in March 2019. The winner will be announced in June 2019.The $15 million Global Learning XPRIZE challenges teams from around the world to develop open-source, scalable software that will enable children in developing countries to teach themselves basic reading, writing and arithmetic within 15 months.
The Malawi education app that is helping UK pupils too
The numeracy material of onecourse has been trialled in an EEF funded study in the UK: 120 schools and 1,200 pupils took part in this study. The research was conducted by Oxford University. Initial findings see similar success in engaging children in the classroom as in Malawi and a previous smaller UK trial. The full report is due out in the Spring 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oa1f0rF9weE
Charles' Story | Comic Relief & UK Aid
Unlocking Talent (UT) an initiative by VSO that has been using onecourse in purpose-built solar-powered classrooms in Malawi since 2013. Around 100,000 Malawian children learn to read, write and do maths on tablet devices in Chichewa. In South Africa, UT is implemented by iSchool Africa and onecourse is used by an increasing number of learners, including children with special needs. The initiative has now scaled to Ethiopia where children are using the numeracy material of onecourse in Amharic.Unlocking Talent recently won the Comic Relief Tech4Good for Africa Award: https://www.tech4goodawards.com/2018/abilitynet-tech4good-awards-2018-winners-announced/https://youtu.be/dyevZKz7biI
BBC Click - XPRIZE in Tanzania
Malawian girls learning to read Chichewa
Children learning to read Kiswahili
BBC Click - Unlocking Talent, reading apps and solar projector
Swahili reading app trial in Tanzania

Implementation steps

Contact onebillion

Please contact one billion for more information regarding the implementation scale and process of onecourse, to receive tips tailored to implementation in your location.

Visit the website or email for more information. 


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