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While technology has historically created jobs and advanced human progress, its impact on today’s economic prosperity and inequality is subject to heated debates. On the one hand, mass automation and machine learning could destroy more jobs than they will ever create. On the other hand, technology increases access to finance, to information, and to learning – all of which are key enablers of economic opportunity.
At Solve, we believe change makers from around the world have solutions that use technology to generate prosperity for all. Last November, 24 of those change makers were finalists of the Inclusive Innovation Challenge (IIC), run by MIT’s Initiative on the Digital Economy. Solve, in close partnership with IIC, selected 7 of the 24 innovators to join the Solve community as “Solvers.” Throughout the year, dedicated Solve staff work with Solvers to facilitate connections to people and organizations with the financial, technological, or intellectual resources to support and help scale the innovative solutions. Solvers also get opportunities to build their own skills through bootcamps, mentoring, and other specialized support. In effect, Solve acts as a marketplace where impactful partnerships are catalyzed.
Here’s an overview of how these 7 Solvers are using technology to promote economic inclusion:
- Increasing underserved communities' access to finance is a pre-requisite for economic inclusion. Destacame uses fintech to offer an alternative credit scoring platform. The platform enables people from micro, small, and medium enterprises to prove their creditworthiness for free through data gathered from credit-like services such as utilities, telecoms, and suppliers. Started in Chile, Destacame estimates that it can turn most of Latin American's unbanked population into bankable clients.
- Correcting asymmetries in access to information for those who are digitally disconnected can have a sizeable impact on their income and well-being. Ignitia is a team of meteorologists, physicists, and mathematicians that has developed a more accurate tropical weather forecasting model. Ignitia sends Sub-Saharan farmers reliable, low-cost tropical weather forecasts via text messages, enabling them to manage risk and significantly increase their yield.
- For our workforce to keep up with the rapidly changing needs of our digital societies, re-skilling, up-skilling, and life-long learning are quickly becoming a necessity. Coding Dojo is a 14-week coding bootcamp that empowers dedicated individuals throughout the US with the skills and training necessary to break through economic barriers and improve their quality of life. StartUp Box focuses on members of the South Bronx community, increasing their integration in the tech economy by creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the South Bronx. Laboratoria focuses on specific group of beneficiaries, working with young women from low-income backgrounds in Latin American to turn them into developers and incorporate them in the digital sector. All three Solvers are empowering disadvantaged communities with the skills necessary to access the higher income jobs of today and tomorrow.
- Other Solvers are reinventing the production process, leveling the playing field through supply chain innovations. 99 Degrees Custom is a US-based apparel manufacturing company that trains its manufacturers like engineers, teaching them transferable skills and lean manufacturing expertise. The company took a struggling industry and transformed it into a highly customized one that pays its workforce family-supporting wages. Similarly, Soko is an ethical fashion brand that enables 1,300 Kenyan artisans to compete in the global fashion market. Thanks to the clever supply chain management and wide commercial distribution, jewelers earn up to four times what they normally would, while consumers can afford the competitively priced jewelry.
Creating shared prosperity in the digital age is one of the most pressing challenge of our time. The Solve community is putting technology at the service of solving it.
Do you believe in the power of open innovation to solve the challenge of inequality? Here are three ways you can stay involved with Solve:
- Support Solvers and their solution for creating shared prosperity by becoming a member of Solve.
- Organize or attend a Solve-a-thon in your city or organization.
- Email us your thoughts on what the next specific actionable challenge should focus on.