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MIT Solve 2021 Global Challenges for Emerging Leaders Worldwide

The pandemic has exacerbated the importance of being connected in order to access jobs, training, and markets. However, the digital economy excludes over half of the world’s population who remain disconnected from the web, with more than half of Africa still offline, and 37 percent of rural US households with no access to broadband. This is an enormous missed opportunity: connecting the rest of the world could add $6.7 trillion to the economy and lift 500 million people out of poverty. 

Building an inclusive digital economy—that affords everyone the opportunity to lead a dignified and productive life—will require access to digital services for everyone. It will also require reliable infrastructure, devices, and affordable data plans for all, particularly for those who do not have access in remote and rural areas. Further, access to commerce, credit lines, safety nets, and saving mechanisms are key for a global economy where nearly 2 billion people remain unbanked, and more than 60 percent of the workforce is informal. 

The MIT Solve community is looking for technology-based solutions that ensure everyone has access to the digital economy. To that end, Solve seeks solutions that:

  • Provide low-income, remote, and refugee communities access to digital infrastructure and safe, affordable internet.
  • Equip everyone, regardless of age, gender, education, location, or ability, with culturally relevant digital literacy skills to enable participation in the digital economy.
  • Scale safe and private digital identity and financial tools to allow people and small businesses to thrive in the digital economy.

2021 Global Challenge cycle timeline

  • March 1, 2021: 2021 Global Challenges open
  • June 16, 2021 at 12:00pm (noon) ET: Deadline to submit solutions
  • August 2021: Finalists announced
  • September 19, 2021: Finalists pitch at Virtual Solve Challenge Finals 2020; the most promising solutions are selected as Solver teams
  • Onward: Solve matches Solver teams with Members, funders, and experts to advance their work

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What type of solutions will Solve accept?

Solve seeks innovative, human-centered, tech-based solutions to our Global Challenges. Our definition of “tech-based” is broad: in addition to AI, blockchain, and virtual reality, Solver teams have leveraged a plant-based fiber that absorbs oil spills, biodegradable sanitary pads, and user-friendly mobile apps. Learn about all our Solver teams‘ diverse technologies. 

Through open innovation, Solve is looking for a diverse portfolio of solutions across geography, development stage, and team members’ gender and background. We encourage people of all backgrounds to submit applications.

Solution applications must be written in English. We will consider solutions at all stages of development:

  • Concept: An idea being explored for its feasibility to build a product, service, or business model based on that idea. Please note that concept solutions are unlikely to be selected; you have until the application deadline to prototype and experiment with your idea!
  • Prototype: A venture or organization building and testing its product, service, or business model. If for-profit, a new company getting off the ground that has raised little or no institutional capital (less than $500,000) in pre-seed fundraising.
  • Pilot: An organization deploying a tested product, service, or business model in at least one community. If for-profit, a young company that is working to gain traction and that has raised less than $2 million in institutional capital in seed funding.
  • Growth: An organization with an established product, service, or business model rolled out in one or, ideally, several communities, which is poised for further growth in multiple communities or countries. If for-profit, an early-stage company that has established a track record and is seeking to raise a round of roughly $2 million to $15 million in institutional capital in a Series A or potentially B round.
  • Scale: A sustainable enterprise working in several communities or countries that is looking to scale significantly, focusing on increased efficiency. If for-profit, a successful company that is scaling its operations and seeks to raise a round of more than $15 million in institutional capital. 

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