ITU Innovation Challenges 2020 for Innovators and Ecosystem builders

ITU Innovation Challenges 2020 for Innovators and Ecosystem builders

Deadline: July 31, 2020

Calling all Innovators and Ecosystem builders! The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Innovation Challenges 2020 is open for entries.

The challenge is a global open competition platform for innovators and ecosystem builders to present their ideas and projects, empowering them to transform their communities into thriving digital societies. Winners will attend a four-day global flagship ITU event to learn, network, innovate and scale up.

The 2020 edition of the ITU Innovation Challenge will be taking place amid a global pandemic caused by Covid-19. This has resulted in stress on value chains and countries’ readiness for a digital economy, significantly affecting social conditions worldwide. Global supply, production, consumption and delivery chains are disrupted. Traditional economies are struggling, as industries have not been digitalized and infrastructure is inadequate to cope with current stress levels.

Policy-makers and innovators worldwide are under pressure. Their communities must embrace a digital economy so that a semblance of normalcy can be maintained in these uncertain conditions. Therefore, the overall theme of this year’s challenges is Rethinking the digital economy’s value chains during the Covid-19 pandemic.  


Three opportunities to win

  1. Digital change-maker challenge: For innovators with ideas that create digital impact in their communities. 
  2. Ecosystem best practice challenge: For ecosystem builders with good practices that nurture an enabling environment for innovators in their communities. 
  3. Women in technology challenge: For innovators with digital projects that create impact for women in their communities. 


Winners will attend a four-day virtual Global Innovation Forum; where they will participate in capacity-building workshops and pitch their proposals to a global audience of experts and network with decision makers.

Event attendance includes:

  • Virtual networking event and onboarding
  • Cocreation workshops with winners on new skills and capacity
  • Workshops on storytelling and practice in pitching projects
  • High level dialogue, pitching of their project, expert talks, networking, media corner, partner corner, and matching of winners with potential resources.
  • 4-day daily subsistence allowance for their participation in event at UN country level daily rate.
  • Be engaged in developing a remarkable video story about their project.
  • Some activities will be streamed, others will be private and reserved for relevant categories of stakeholders.
  • Support in identifying new partnership opportunities and networking with potential buyers, global delegates, investors, government representatives and other attendees.
  • Support during event to help winners further develop their proposals; connect with mentors, ecosystem builders, and potential clients and investors; International recognition.

There will be a minimum of five winners per challenge. The final number of winners for each challenge is subject to the organizer’s discretion.

Winners will also join a global network of past winners and innovation champions. This network may offer access to additional resources and mentoring based on mutual interest.


Women in technology challenge:

  • Open to innovators with a digital project that creates impact for women in your community
  • The innovation challenge is open to all eligible startups with a minimum of one (1) year in operation, legally registered and incorporated in a developing country and at least 30% or more women owned, managed and controlled.
  • Your solutions should:
    • Ensure that women are given access to ICT platforms, internet connectivity and digital tools; equipped with digital skills through training and use of tech tools; and/or offered chances to develop leadership potential (such as entrepreneurial skills, network building, financial inclusion, etc.) by being active members of the digital society.   
    • Focus on facilitating and improving processes in one of the selected sectors (agriculture, textiles and apparel, or health) in which women are represented in significant numbers as both business owners and workers, by supporting them to access and use ICTs for development through scalable innovative solutions that will help them increase their participation in the economy. 

Digital change-maker challenge:

  • Open to innovators with ideas that create digital impact in their communities
  • The solution can be at an early stage of development but must have a minimum viable project.
  • Your solutions should:
    • Address a clear problem that stakeholders in your community are facing, especially considering value chain competitiveness and global disruption due to Covid-19.
    • Cover one or more of the thematic areas above.

Ecosystem best practice challenge:

  • Open to ecosystem builders with good practice that will enable innovators to develop ICT-centric solutions
  • The practice must be operational (not at an idea stage).
  • Your solution should:
    • Be evidence-informed practices that can be amplified and scaled at the national level.
    • Help other communities at the global level upgrade their practices to maintain competitiveness and innovation in their ICT ecosystems.
    • Provide an enabling environment that nurtures innovators to accelerate their ideas to market.


Click here to apply.

For more information, visit ITU Innovation Challenges.