12 million more girls are illiterate than boys worldwide. UK teenager Grace – and her team, Vision 101– decided to push back against that disparity with their app LexisLearn. Motivated by their experiences with friends’ and peers’ devotion to their mobile devices, Grace and her team created a tool that meets students where they spend their time – on their phones. LexisLearn tracks users’ reading and encourages them to develop a daily reading habit. The trends Grace and her teammates noticed among their own friends are part of a larger global problem – globally, more than 55% of primary and secondary school students lacked minimum proficiency in reading and mathematics in 2015. And even proficient students could benefit from an additional push focused on maintaining reading skills – 71% of teenagers use multiple social media platforms, whereas only 53% of 13-year-olds and 40% of 17 year-olds read at least once a week.

Grace and her team focused on their friends and peers, wanting to support and help those in their school communities, but low literacy rates affect adults too. In their 2019 report on the progress made on the Sustainable Development Goals, the UN notes that despite progress, 750 million adults still cannot read and write a simple statement – and two thirds of those adults are women. Grace and her team’s idea to encourage and incentivize their peers to spend more time reading and building a reading habit (while also being attuned to what their friends are already interested in) pushes for a different picture.

Continuing to lead and learn

Grace is now a Technovation Student Ambassador, where she encourages and supports girls to pursue their own creative technological solutions to community problems, and deepens her experience as an educator and mentor. When we asked Grace to tell us what motivates her to work with Technovation girls, she told us she hopes “more young women become determined to be the solution to social problems they recognise and that they explore many innovative ways of solving them, particularly through technology…[p]romoting the increased inclusion of women in innovation is fundamental to global development. Diversity in innovation, comprised of people from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, allows for revolutionary ideas to be encountered.”

Working alongside Grace and seeing her step into a greater leadership role inspires us. Grace is committed to supporting her peers and the younger students coming up behind her, and ensuring that they too have the skills to shape the world we share.

You can shape our world too. Registration for the 2020 Technovation Girls season is open. Join today and learn about technology and business and how to sell a powerful idea – we want to know what problems you think we should be paying attention to, and how you want to solve them. If you’re an adult, we need you too. Join as a mentor and support teams like Vision 101 and girls like Grace, who are committed to building a better future with tech.