Emerging Trends | SMEs/Entrepreneurship
June 10, 2014

Young Innovators Competition Issue a Series of Challenges for 2014

By Dimitrina Todorova

The Young Innovators Programme has just closed submissions on the first challenge of its 2014 Young Innovators Competition. The challenge, focused on Local Digital Content, attracted 205 ideas from 55 countries. An online community of over 4500 users helped to refine the ideas, submitting 2361 votes and 1100 comments. A closer look at the process, submissions, and contributors can be found here. Winners will be announced on our website.

The Young Innovators Program continuously engaged young people in important conversations and initiatives around the transformative potential of ICTs. For the fourth consecutive year, the Young Innovators Competition is providing an opportunity for entrepreneurial young people to enter their start-ups and compete for one of the prestigious places in the programme, which award seed funding, mentorship, and the opportunity to showcase at ITU Telecom World, the high-level conference where key figures from the telecommunications industry and public sector officials meet.

Constantly adapting to the issues and evolving new ways to engage with young people, the Young Innovators competition for 2014 will consist of a series of crowdsourced sequential challenges, aimed at keeping the community of3000+ young people from all corners of the world engaged. The first challenge on Local Digital Content was launched in April.

The topic of Local Digital Content was carefully selected for this challenge, organized in collaboration with Ooredoo.  The goal was to identify the most promising tech start-ups aimed at inspiring the creation, aggregation or digitization of local content, particularly in non-Latin scripts. Topics for applications ranged from the creation of local script content, to resolving the technical challenges of digitizing non-Latin scripts, to fresh uses for older technologies such as optical character recognition voice recognition or translation.

ITU has engaged with the issue repeatedly through several different platforms. WSIS Action Line C8identifies the need to “Support local content development, translation and adaptation, digital archives, and diverse forms of digital and traditional media”. The “State of Broadband Report 2013”prepared by the Broadband Commission identifies   the “limited availability of relevant local content” as a serious barrier to accessing broadband and its potential benefits for the communities.  Also, the Connect Arab Summit 2012 (Doha) as well as ITU Telecom World 2012 (Dubai) recognized the increasing need for specifically Arabic digital content.

The topic resonated with young people, and their response was exciting. Following two months of submissions, the challenge attracted205 submissions. These were startups, focused on various different types of digital content: text, images, videos, software programming, and distribution of content. Applications were received from all corners of the world such as Afghanistan, India, Vanuatu, USA, Portugal, Egypt, Zambia, and Nigeria among others. The crowdsourcing community on the competition platform resulted in a lively and productive debate, strengthening the ideas and sharing the knowledge and experience of the participants.

Going further, a new challenge is open for submissions, focusing on using Open Source Technologies for Disaster Relief, which will encourage the creative potential of young social entrepreneurs and to discover the best tools to harness open source technologies to save lives. The challenge will rewardtechnologies that can reach the most vulnerable communities around the world  at low cost and with minimal barriers.

To submit your ideas for Open Source Technologies for Disaster Relief in the next round of Young Innovators Challenge visit: https://ideas.itu.int/category/1983

By: Dimitrina Todorova

Ms. Dimitrina Todorova works for the Young Innovators Programme at ITU. A recent graduate of the London School of Economics herself, she is passionate about including young people in the key conversations and highlighting their contribution to development through the use of ICTs.

Photo by Alex Knight

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Young Innovators Competition Issue a Series of Challenges for 2014

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