Emerging Trends | ICT4SDG | SMEs/Entrepreneurship
September 28, 2017

Spotlight shines on the winners of the ITU Telecom World Awards 2017

By ITU News

The journey for startups is often wrought with highs and lows, challenges and opportunities, successes and failures.

For a select group of innovative tech startups across the globe, 28 September will certainly be remembered as one of the high points – when they emerged winners of the prestigious ITU Telecom World Awards 2017.

“I feel blessed to have this opportunity. Of course winning the award is massive, but ITU Telecom World has been an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything,” said Temitope Awosika, co-founder of the Nigeria-based health startup, Medsaf, which won the award for Greatest Social Impact.

ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao presented winners and finalists in several categories with trophies and certificates in an excitement-filled ceremony hall packed with government ministers, industry leaders, representatives of media, academia and international organizations from across the globe.

Digital solutions for social impact

From micro-lending to a location-based shopping platform, to an artificial intelligence-powered concierge robot, to a voice recognition-based diagnostic system for babies, the third edition of the ITU Telecom World Awards celebrated creativity and innovation in digital solutions meeting real-world social needs.

During the ceremony, the excitement of the winners was palpable and the crowd of supporters equally so.

The Global SME Awards recognised the best innovative ICT-based solutions with social impact from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) present at the event in five classes – Best Business Model; Most Scalable; Most Innovative Use of ICT; Greatest Social Impact; and the Global SME Excellence Award, for the SME with the highest all-around score.

“Entrepreneurship is a team sport… To get the validation from the judges, it’s invaluable.” — Matthias Brodner, Simplus Innovation

Thematic Awards were presented for the most promising innovative solutions with social impact in the areas of eHealth, eEducation and smart emerging technologies.

Winners express their happiness and aspirations

The winner for Most Scalable solution, Security Platform Inc., from Republic of Korea aims to provide access to finance for those without formal accounts. In their acceptance speech they noted that “financial inclusion is one the greatest challenges of our generation,” and they hope their platform will help scale solutions.

“Winning the 2017 Global SME Excellence Award is truly a great honor for Modalku, both for us as a team and as Indonesian citizens,” said Iwan Kurniawan, Co-Founder and COO of Modalku upon accepting the award. “I would like to thank the Ministry of Communication and Informatics for their support towards Indonesian startups during the ITU Telecom World 2017. Modalku’s mission is to help create financial inclusion in Indonesia through technological innovations and empowering the MSME sector, which has always been the backbone of the national economy. MSMEs need working capital to grow, but the majority lack access to loan products that suit their needs. By providing working capital loans with no required collateral and an efficient online process to MSMEs, Modalku is actively playing a role in strengthening the Indonesian economy. Moving forward, the award will motivate Modalku to narrow the existing financing gap in Indonesia.”

Rigorous selection process

All SMEs in these categories underwent a rigorous application and selection process, with an external jury of social entrepreneurship and tech experts assessing each entrant on the basis of business model, scalability, innovation and social impact.

“Entrepreneurship is a team sport… To get the validation from the judges, it’s invaluable,” said Matthias Brodner in his acceptance speech on behalf of the South Africa-based startup, Simplus Innovation, which won the award for Best Business Model.

Those shortlisted for the Global SME Award were invited to take part in a quick-fire pitching session on the event showfloor during the event.

“Winning our Award and having innovative solutions recognized by a global panel of experts at our event will help these talented enterprises grow and scale up their business, taking it to the next stage,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “Previous Award winners have enjoyed great success, coming back to later events as exhibitors and sponsors – I look forward to following the developments of this year’s Awards alumni, too.”

See more photos from the event here.

For the full list of winners and finalists see the press release here.

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