The Global Learning XPRIZE has recently been announced. A $15 million dollar contest to develop open source scalable teaching software that operates on a tablet computer both in the cloud and standalone. The children in developing countries using this system should be able to use it alone without a teacher present and at the end of 18 months the child should have learned basic reading, writing and arithmetic.
This is a very ambitious goal indeed. There are some questions about scope of the contest that would be best clarified before judging.
The contest programs would all teach English reading and writing. The contest writing team decided that using English would make it a level playing field for all contestants rather than judging teaching and instructional programs in many languages. But will teaching English as a second language really demonstrate progress in illiteracy? Literacy in a native language should be the target here.
The scope also requires use of specific technology, computer tablets and software. The stated goal is a software/hardware solution. However, there is a pedagogical goal lying at the heart of the quest, whose solution may be apart from the technological one.
I have not found much research into elementary school auto didactic approaches that show they work better