UNOSSC and ITU Launch the Global South COVID-19 Digital Innovation Challenge

By June 2, 2021 COVID-19, News

Scaling up digital innovations through South-South and triangular cooperation

Digital transformation is key to accelerating our progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Digital innovation enhances access to information, reduces transaction costs, improves service delivery, creates new jobs, generates new revenue streams and helps conserve resources. Since the beginning of the pandemic, innovators have been responding to the crisis with a progressive approach.

South-South and triangular cooperation, through facilitating knowledge exchange, interaction and establishment of networks, building capacity and deploying working solutions and innovations on a broader level, will help us tackle challenges brought upon by the current pandemic. In this context, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) are jointly launching the Digital Innovation Challenge, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenge will identify scalable innovative digital solutions that will enable countries, societies, communities, institutions and individuals from the Global South to deal with the cascading effects of the pandemic – across governance, economic and social sectors, and wellbeing – and contribute to the organizations’ respective focuses on South-South cooperation and digital technologies.

Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau, ITU, expressed the organization’s commitment to the partnership: “Pleased to partner with the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation to find innovative digital solutions that empower communities across the Global South with the power of ICTs.”

Harnessing South-South Cooperation

The objective of the Challenge is to promote South-South Cooperation by replicating or scaling up existing Southern innovations with a potential partner/ country in the South. It seeks to identify, recognize and support digital innovation solutions in the global South and harness its potential to accelerate digital transformation in the developing world.

The Challenge will provide a mentorship scheme to increase the potential/ capabilities of the selected proposals/ teams to scaling up innovations across developing countries.

Innovation topics covered by this challenge include:

  • Enabling governments and communities to suppress the transmission of the virus
  • Mitigating the socio-economic impact and safeguarding people and their livelihoods
  • Recover Better: covering areas of preparedness measures, skills development and digital literacy solutions, e-governance solutions and renewable energy for health care solutions

As shared by Xiaojun Grace Wang, Deputy Director, Programme and Operations, UNOSSC, on her blog spotlighting World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, “Building a more equal and sustainable world, powered by digital technology, has proved to be even more relevant in these challenging times… South-South Cooperation, coupled with embracing new and innovative approaches, present an opportunity to respond to this crisis and recover from it.”

The challenge is supported by the Global South-South Development Center (GSSDC) which is jointly initiated by UNOSSC and China International Center for Economic and Technical Exchanges (CICETE), with funding support from the Government of China to the UN Fund for South-South Cooperation. GSSDC leverages the technical expertise of the 40 member institutions of the “China South-South Cooperation Network” established since 1995 in facilitating mutual learning, technical training, capacity development, and technology transfer and adaptation among developing country partners.

Eligibility Criteria

Only legally registered organizations/institutions from developing countries are eligible to participate in this challenge. The challenge is open to governments, intergovernmental organizations, NGOs, private sector and start-ups, research institutions, academia and civil society organization (CSOs).

Applying organizations/institutions must have an existing project or minimum viable product (MVP) that:

  1. promotes South-South cooperation by replicating or scaling up existing innovations with a potential partner/country in the South,
  2. demonstrates a new innovative project/prototype, outlining its potential for scaling up through South-South cooperation, and
  3. is a digital solution

Deadline for applications: 15 July 2021

For more information about innovation topics, how to apply, selection process and timelines, please click here.