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IIC Winners Take Diverse Paths to Digital Equity

Friday, October 13, 2017

By Paula Klein

The four MIT 2017 Inclusive Innovation Challenge grand prize winners announced October 12, are highly diverse, yet they share a key common trait: Economic and technological equality are baked into their business models.

Whether they are providing easier access to financial loans or medical services; offering coding classes or college-entry support, the winning enterprises earned their awards by using technology to include thousands more people in the digital economy.

The grand prize winners were among 16 finalists celebrated at HUBweek in Boston after months of judging; nearly 1,000 global organizations responded to this year’s challenge. Each of the four grand prize winners will receive $150,000 from the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy. The remaining 12 finalists will each receive $35,000.

The grand prize winners are:

  • EFL   developed a digital credit-assessment scoring system that helps lenders in emerging markets grant more loans by leveraging psychometric and behavioral data. The organization hopes to aid some of the three billion people worldwide who lack the credit history lenders require to make a loan.   
  • Logistimo’s technology leverages the ubiquity of mobile phone and cloud computing technologies to tackle information asymmetry in India. As a result, it ensures availability of essential goods like vaccines and medicines in rural areas. 

    Above, Anup Akkihal (left) and Raj Ganesh accept their awards.

  • LaunchCode expands the tech workforce by providing free coding education to disadvantaged and under-employed jobseekers in the U.S., and then matching them, via a digital platform, to paid apprenticeships.
  • AdmitHub  has created a virtual assistant, powered by artificial intelligence, to empower students as they navigate the often-complex web of financial, academic, and social situations so that they can flourish and graduate. Of the approximately 2.5 million U.S. students who enroll at colleges each year, 48% fail to earn a degree within six years. Students who drop out disproportionately come from underserved communities. The societal impact is staggering, costing the U.S. an estimated $4.5 billion in lost earnings and taxes annually. AdmitHub’s students receive 24/7 personalized support, and more data is available for universities to provide greater individual attention.

At the event, attended by more than 500 people, Erik Brynjolffson, Director of the IDE, said that the rapid pace of digital advances will continue to accelerate, but it’s  up to society and businesses to decide how to use technology for shared prosperity. The IIC finalist represent that vision, he said.

 Retraining the workforce for tomorrow’s jobs is clearly top-of-mind. In an interview with CNN at the IIC event, Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Alphabet Inc., noted that Google wants to do its part to remedy the problem. Earlier in the day, Google unveiled a $1 billion initiative to train Americans for high-tech jobs. The company will invest in nonprofit organizations over the next five years to help people adjust to the changing nature of work.

Schmidt said the jobs aren’t lacking and human workers will be needed far into the future to work with machines. He sees a lack of skilled workers holding back economic growth and creating greater employment disparities.

Leila Janah, Founder & CEO of Sama Group, also spoke about ways to boost employment and empower workers in developing nations. Mignon Clyburn, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner, addressed the importance of universal broadband access.

Read more about all of the finalists here.

The 12 runners-up are:

African Renewable Energy Distributor Ltd (Technology Access) has developed a one-stop shop mobile solar kiosk to promote African entrepreneurship.

AID:Tech (Financial Inclusion) uses Blockchain technology to revolutionize how governments, corporates and NGOs deliver digital entitlements across the world.

Digital Citizen Fund (Technology Access) helps girls and women in developing countries gain access to technology, virtually connect with others across the world, and obtain necessary skills for success.

dot Learn (Technology Access) creates technology for data-light video learning in emerging markets.

Hogaru (Income Growth & Job Creation) empowers women in Latin America’s cleaning industry by leveraging technology to select, train and manage teams while connecting them to over 7,000 customers.

iHub (Skills & Matching) provides upcoming developers in Kenya with an opportunity to work in teams alongside more experienced engineers on real-world projects.

Leap Skills Academy (Skills & Mentoring) mentors, trains and provides employment opportunities to students from low-income households in India through technology and classroom training. 

New Day (Skills & Matching) is a smartphone-centric, low- to mid-income employment platform for developing markets worldwide, enabling scalable and rewarding job matching, skills building, and employer transparency.

Nomanini (Financial Inclusion) is a South African-based enterprise enabling merchants to facilitate a wide-range of basic transactions including mobile top-ups, utility payments, remittances, deposits, withdrawals, account opening and mobile money/card acceptance.

SkillSmart (Income Growth & Job Creation) levels the playing field and transforms the talent development process by driving from employer demand and connecting employers and job seekers at the skill level.

Tala (Financial Inclusion) is a mobile technology and data science company that is building financial identities for underserved people in emerging markets through alternative data and instant credit.

Tuteria (Income Growth & Job Creation) uses an online platform where learners can easily find, evaluate, book, pay for and track lessons with a verified local teacher in any subject, skill or exam.

For more information on IIC winners and its mission, please visit: www.MITinclusiveinnovation.com