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MIT Awards $1 million in Third-annual Inclusive Innovation Challenge

Friday, November 9, 2018

By Kara Baskin, MIT Sloan

The MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy awarded $1 million in prize money November 8, in its third annual MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge. The gala, held at MIT, recognized entrepreneurs worldwide who are using technology to reinvent the future of work.

The winners include an online professional development platform for caregivers, mobile cold-storage units for harvested crops, an SMS communication system for rural farmers, and software and hardware for micro-merchants.

MIT Sloan principal research scientist Andrew McAfee, co-director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, noted there’s a fretful mood around technological progress as workers worry about being left behind. But these winning organizations embody inclusivity and opportunity, he said at the event.

“When you give incredibly smart, tenacious, motivated people very powerful digital tools, they will do astonishing things,” McAfee said. “We’re here to celebrate” the amazing innovations that these organizations have created with technology “to provide inclusion and to uplift to people around the world.”

Applicants competed across four categories: financial inclusion, income growth and job creation, skills development, and opportunity matching, and technology access.

The winners were chosen from among 20 regional finalists in AsiaAfricaEuropeLatin America, and North America. Approximately 1,500 organizations registered to compete, and 500 judges reviewed the applications.

The grand prize winners are:

CareAcademy
(Skills development and opportunity matching, North America)
CareAcademy offers home-health caregivers online professional development classes. The training is done through video-based classes with real-world scenarios. It provides opportunities for millions of workers to prepare for future of healthcare.

Ftcash
(Financial inclusion, Asia)
Ftcash provides software and hardware to underserved small business owners and micro-merchants by offering loans and cashless, digital payment services.

Solar Freeze
(Technology access, Africa)
Solar Freeze helps to enhance rural agricultural productivity through mobile cold-storage units. It offers a turnkey, portable toolkit for localized food production containing technologies to enhance agricultural productivity.

Wefarm
(Income growth and job creation, Africa)
Wefarm is a free, peer-to-peer, knowledge-sharing mobile network accessed through SMS, for remote farmers who lack internet service.

Originally published at mitsloan.mit.edu.