ITU Innovation Challenges 2020

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​The 2020 edition of the ITU Innovation Challenge is taking place (from 04 May to 31 August​) 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.  

While ICTs have the potential to change lives and significantly impact sustainable development, many communities lack a nurturing environment and an ecosystem that enables digital innovators to provide new products and services, entrepreneurs to have business that can survive in uncertain times and small businesses to grow. Without access to highly skilled talent, businesses are unable to create sustainable jobs. As a result, communities do not have industries that are conducive to economic growth in the age of global disruption.

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. The table below provides the details of the overall challenge ​timeline.

04 May 2020​​
​Challenge launched
31 August 2020 ​​Challenge submission deadline
15 September 2020 ​​Winners announced
Last week of ​October 2020​ F​our-day immersive Global Innovation Forum


​We are looking for innovators with solutions that accelerate national development priorities and ecosystem builders who have practices that nurture innovators. This year’s challenges are:

  1. Digital Change-maker ChallengeFor innovators with ideas that create digital impact in their communities. Winners will attend a flagship ITU event to learn, connect, network, innovate and scale up.
  2. Ecosystem Best Practice Challenge: For ecosystem builders with good practices that nurture an enabling environment for innovators in their communities. Winners will attend a flagship ITU o event to learn, connect, network, innovate and scale up.
  3. Women in Technology Challenge: For individual women tech innovators and eligible startups with digital projects that create impact for women in their communities


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

Exceptionally, this year, we are looking at an online event due to the changing situation of Covid-19. However, this will be unlike any innovation forum before, should be immersive for any ecosystem participant, and well worth the time for winners and their supporters. Details to come, but 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.
  • Be engaged in developing a remarkable video story about their project.
  • 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 invest​ors; 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.​



  1. ​All challenges are open to any participant anywhere in the world. Gender or age restrictions may apply. Consult the individual challenge briefs for details.
  2. Participants will be required to engage in a co-creation process on ITU’s challenge platform.
  3. 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.
  4. Only one entry per challenge is permitted. Multiple entries from same applicant for one challenge will be disqualified.

​​Note: ​Additional eligibility criteria may be applied for specific challenges. Consult the individual challenge briefs for details.​


All proposals that pass the co-creation stage will be submitted to a jury of experts from ITU and supporting organizations. The jury will use the following criteria in addition to the challenge scope criteria:

    • Originality: Your idea must be original.
    • Creativity: Your idea must be innovative and unique.
    • Sustainability: You must clearly describe the ways in which the activity or project will be able to continue.
    • Viability: Your idea must be realistic and logical.
    • Impact: Your idea must fall within the scope of the challenge. Your submission should consider cross-cutting impacts, problems and relevant solutions.
    • Co-creation: Special attention will be paid to your submission if you actively help other ITU Innovation Challenge community members advance their ideas.
    • Ecosystem collaboration: Ecosystem builders who apply to the global ecosystem best practice challenge and have their innovators apply to one of the other challenges will be given special consideration.