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As COVID-19 continues, ITU calls for digital solutions

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The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has announced its second annual innovation competition, calling for digital solutions that can be nurtured to scale and be able to assist communities.

The ITU says now, more than ever, we need innovators, entrepreneurs, policy-makers and leaders to bridge the innovation divide.

It says one of its five goals is for all countries to have policies and strategies for ICT-centric innovation and it is urging innovators and entrepreneurs to put forward their innovation, or idea for innovation.

“Communities with access to technological innovation are more prepared during crisis. COVID-19 demonstrates the positive impact of innovation but also reveals the uneven distribution of technology’s benefits,” says the ITU.

Since the outbreak of the deadly pandemic, technology has been placed at the centre of managing the spread of the virus.

Technologies − ranging from artificial intelligence for medical diagnostics, to mobile technology for data collection and contact tracing − have offered effective ways of dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In SA, technology has been used for contact tracing, community mapping, education, work, research and broadcasting information on the virus.

“Contact tracing mobile apps can help healthcare systems track and stem the spread of COVID-19. Autonomous vehicles are being deployed to support vital logistic chains in areas that are locked down. And for the 1.5 billion school children impacted by school closures around the world, digital learning solutions provide a means to continue their education,” says the ITU.

It says participants may choose to provide solutions for the following three challenges.

• The Digital Change-maker Challenge covers a wide range of topics from cyber security and regulation, to digital inclusion and climate change, and calls for participants to provide innovative solutions to real-life problems faced by stakeholders in their communities, especially considering value chain competitiveness and global disruption due to COVID-19.

• The Ecosystem Best Practice Challenge looks for ecosystem builders to identify best practices that allow innovators to develop sustainable and resilient solutions to navigate technological change and bridge the digital divide.

• The Women in Tech Challenge, in cooperation with the EQUALS Global Partnership, invites tech innovators to help and empower women in various sectors, including agriculture, fashion and health.

The competition runs until the end of July, when winners will be invited to an ITU event to pitch their proposals, and connect with mentors and experts to scale-up their projects.

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