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MIT awards $1 million in third annual Inclusive Innovation Challenge

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The MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy awarded $1 million in prize money Nov. 8, in its third annual MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge. The gala recognized entrepreneurs worldwide who are using technology to reinvent the future of work.

The winners include an online professional development platform for caregivers, mobile cold-storage units for harvested crops, an SMS communication system for rural farmers, and software and hardware for micro-merchants.MIT Sloan principal research scientist Andrew McAfee, co-director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, noted there's a fretful mood around technological progress as workers worry about being left behind. But these winning organizations embody inclusivity and opportunity, he said.

“When you give incredibly smart, tenacious, motivated people very powerful tools, they will do astonishing things,” McAfee said. "We’re here to celebrate astonishing things that people in this room have done with technology to provide inclusion and uplift to people — not just parochially — but around the world."Contestants competed across four categories: financial inclusion, income growth and job creation, skills development and opportunity matching, and technology access.

The winners were chosen from among 20 regional finalists in AsiaAfricaEuropeLatin America, and North America.

Approximately 1,500 organizations registered to compete, and 500 judges reviewed the applications.

The grand prize winners are:

 

Professor Erik Brynjolfsson stands with team members from CareAcademy.

CareAcademy

(Skills development and opportunity matching, North America) CareAcademy offers caregivers online professional development classes. The training is done through video-based classes with real-world scenarios.

Ftcash

(Financial inclusion, Asia) Ftcash provides software and hardware to underserved small business owners and micro-merchants by offering loans and cashless, digital payment services.

Solar Freeze

(Technology access, Africa) Solar Freeze helps to enhance rural agricultural productivity through mobile cold storage units.

Wefarm

(Income growth and job creation,Africa) Wefarm is a free mobile network accessed through SMS, for remote farmers who lack internet service.

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