By Tamara Pupic
Competition looks to find tech-driven cutting-edge solutions to address refugee challenges
The MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab (MITEF Pan Arab), in partnership with Zain and MBC Hope, has announced the launch of a global competition designed to reward tech-driven cutting-edge solutions that address the most acute challenges faced by refugees.
The Innovate for Refugees competition, supported by the UNHCR and Jusoor, invites enterprising individuals or teams from around the world to come up with innovative solutions that effectively tackle challenges faced by refugees.
Participants can apply online on mitarabcompetition.com from June 1 through September 1.
Speaking about the competition, Hala Fadel, founder and chair of the MITEF Pan Arab, said: “The combination of three factors make me hopeful about this competition: smartphone penetration among refugees is very high and so is Internet penetration; second, you find refugees with a very high level of education especially in science and technology, finally, the refugee population is very young.
“Technology, education and youth work well together and will help us unleash solutions for refugees by entrepreneurs worldwide and also from within the refugee community."
A panel of expert judges will assess the submissions of the applicants and evaluate their projects, inviting the shortlisted applicants to attend a final award ceremony on October 3, 2016.
Two of the four prizes of $20,000 each, offered by the main sponsors Zain and MBC Hope, are open to solutions across categories including healthcare, energy, food, shelter and security. The third is marked for an educational solution and offered by Jusoor, an NGO established by Syrian expatriates supporting the country’s development.
The fourth prize will be crowdfunded and awarded to a solution brought forward by a refugee. The MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab Innovate for Refugees crowdfunding campaign has launched on the Generosity by Indiegogo platform.
Scott Gegenheimer, CEO of Zain Group said: “The overwhelming majority of refugees are proud, progressive and dignified people who find themselves in terrible circumstances that are beyond their control. Through efforts such as the ‘Innovate for Refugee’ competition, we hope to restore a measure of pride and purpose to many stricken people, and improve their overall living circumstances.”
According to Mohammed Abu Asaker, UNHCR’s Spokesperson, over the past five years the rate of displacement has escalated drastically, with the forcibly displaced exceeding 65 million for the first time. “The MENA region is the largest producer and host of refugees in the world, while Syria’s war remained the world’s leading cause of displacement and associated suffering,” he said.
The MITEF Pan Arab has also partnered with the Karam Foundation, an NGO focused on building a better future for Syria, and Techfugees, an institution that works on developing tech projects for refugees.