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MIT awards $1 million in 4th annual Inclusive Innovation Challenge

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Short-term loans for bodega owners and a suite of agricultural technologies were two of the grand prize winning ideas at the 2019 MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge.

The competition awarded more than $1 million in prizes during the Nov. 21 final in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 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.

“There’s no shortage of real problems, real things that need work out there,” said MIT Sloan principal research scientist Andrew McAfee, co-director of the initiative.

“The solutions are not going to come from alleged smart people in Cambridge, they’re not going to come from Washington or other national capitals. They’re going to come in a distributed manner, in a decentralized manner, from innovators and entrepreneurs exactly like the ones that are in this room,” he said.

The challenge 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.

The four winners were chosen from 20 finalists, and they each take home $250,000. The winners are:

TiendaPago

(Financial inclusion, Latin America) TiendaPago provides one-week, short-term loans for bodega owners to buy inventory.

JobGet

(Income growth and job creation, United States and Canada) 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.

Reaktor Education

(Skills development and opportunity matching, Europe) Consulting firm Reaktor partnered with the University of Helsinki to develop its first online course, “Elements of AI,” which helps the workforce understand artificial intelligence.

Agros

(Technology access, Latin America) Agros combines satellite imaging, weather data, and other agricultural technology to help small farmers stay informed about their crops.

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