A few years ago, Peng T. Ong was invited to give a speech at the Africa Innovation Summit in Cape Verde. He tried to be a little provocative and asked the question if we could bypass the industrialisation stage of economic development, and jump straight to the knowledge-based economy. It prompted vigorous discussions, but quickly, a realisation of the underlying problem struck: we cannot have a knowledge-based economy without knowledge workers. Since education was broken, the question became how we could fix education. We spent the next couple days talking about how education could be solved.

Today, hundreds of millions of young people face barriers to education linked to poverty, diversity politics, gender, disability, armed conflict and displacement. Inadequate access to quality education entrenches cycles of inequality by preventing disadvantaged youth from attaining the skills to change their economic situation in an ever-changing world.

Can technology be part of the solution to this?  Today, smartphones and the internet can touch the lives of many of the children that education fails to reach. By 2020, 70% of the world will have a basic smartphone, and intermittent internet connectivity.  The education technology industry has seen the opportunity and creates software with a particular market in mind. But the families who can pay for this technology are not the ones who need it most.

At the end of 2015, Solve Education! was born. As a not-for-profit organisation, our vision is a world where all students can access education and gain confidence in their ability to learn.  We seek to use technology to bring free, engaging educational software to the low-end phones and intermittent internet connectivity that will soon cover the globe.

Most existing educational technology assumes that its paying users are motivated to learn.  We understand that when students are marginalised from employment, it is nearly impossible to be motivated to learn the skills for that marketplace.  With this in mind, we use evidence from successful game developers to create a game so engaging that students become addicted to playing, and to learning.  We build in real-life incentives by directly linking success in the game to opportunities on our online employment platform.

The design of our game encourages students to be independent, analytical problem-solvers; fostering skills for a changing world.  Following learning journeys personalised and guided by Artificial Intelligence, our educational game app will empower students with skills and confidence to face the challenges of a changing world, and transform their own lives.

*Solve Education! is part of the prestigious AVPN (Asian Venture Philanthropy Network) and Fast Forward.