Ideas Made to Matter
20 startups using tech to build a more inclusive economy
A “social reputation” algorithm, a crowdsourcing platform for homeless job seekers, a digital credit line for bodega owners, an identity-blind hiring platform.
The ideas and inventions of the 2019 MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge finalists are as wide-ranging as the international competition’s boundaries.
The challenge is the flagship program of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, an organization built on the vision of an “economy that works for all” through the use of technology.
“Technology has always been destroying jobs, but it’s also always been creating jobs,” said Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the initiative. “It’s not what technology does to us, it’s what we do with technology.”
The IIC has several rounds that take place in each of five regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the United States and Canada. Applicants are sorted into one of four categories including development and opportunity matching, financial inclusion, income growth and job creation, and technology access.
Four finalists from each region are chosen, one representing each of the categories. These 20 finalists will compete Nov. 21 during the Global Grand Prize Gala at MIT. The gala includes four $250,000 prizes, one for each category.
The 20 challenge finalists are:
Social Lender creates a “social reputation” score for someone based on their engagement and connections across various social media platforms. The score can then be used to apply for a credit line.
The Shopit app connects small grocery stores in low-income areas with large wholesalers, allowing the small business owners to access the broader grocery market.
Taskty is a mobile platform that connects certified home maintenance workers and cleaners with homeowners in Egypt.
Tiny Totos educates and trains informal daycare owners in Nairobi. Tiny Totos offers bookkeeping skills and marketing strategies, as well as provides a mobile app for owners to keep track of children’s attendance and health.
Asia Initiatives partners with local communities and non-profits to establish community programs and projects that benefit the people of that area.
Innovision built a portable Braille device called Braille Me, which is designed to withstand harsh conditions and connect to Bluetooth.
NaTakallam offers online foreign language lessons and transcription services that are provided by refugees. The courses are taught via Skype.
Youth4Jobs offers skillset training and placement services for Indian youth with disabilities.
Beam provides career training to homeless men and women, and a crowdsourcing platform where donors can help financially support homeless people who are pursuing job goals.
Organise is a platform that helps people create and grow work-related campaigns, such as paying a living wage, ending workplace harassment, and improving parental benefits.
Padlock matches cybersecurity freelancers with companies in need of their services.
Reaktor’s platform and team provides a variety of services for clients, including engineering, communication design, and product and service design.
Agros combines satellite imaging, weather data, and other agricultural technology to help small farmers stay informed about their crops.
Jetty provides commuter services via small passenger vans, and buses, around parts of Mexico.
Talentu’s employment platform digitizes the job application process, allowing users to answer assessment questions, take video, and schedule interviews — all from their phones.
TiendaPago provides one-week, short-term loans for bodega owners to buy inventory.
United States and Canada
Aira helps blind and low-vision people with daily tasks through the use of wearable technology, artificial intelligence, and augmented reality.
JobGet is a mobile app connecting job seekers and employers. Applicants set up a profile and apply to jobs in retail, hospitality, customer service, and more via the app.
Skillist is a skills-based, identity-blind hiring platform.
Up & Go is a digital platform connecting homeowners with house cleaners. The workers own the platform and set their wages.