ctu_logo
powered by IEEE Future Networks Initiative
IEEE_png
ctu_logo
powered by IEEE Future Networks Initiative
IEEE_png
ctu_logo
powered by IEEE Future Networks Initiative
IEEE_png

About Connecting the Unconnected Challenge

The IEEE Connecting the Unconnected Challenge is a new, global IEEE competition that solicits solutions from start-ups, grassroots organizations, university projects, and others that are working to bridge the digital divide in innovative ways. Organized by the IEEE Future Networks Initiative and other partners, the competition will call for applications from early-stage projects that find unique ways to increase broadband access and usage for unconnected (or under-connected) populations/geographies.

The COVID-19 pandemic significantly exacerbated the already profound implications of having 3.7 billion unconnected people across the globe. Unconnected populations lack access to online marketplaces to sell goods and services, and students lack access to schooling. Working or studying from home is simply not a reality for those lacking internet access, forcing a tradeoff between staying healthy or earning a living. Offline students often receive no education at all during this time. In addition, falling global economies leave such workers and students with few options, while governments and nonprofits are more challenged to support them than ever before.

However, increased connectivity provides life-changing benefits to communities while expanding the global marketplace. Internet access provides unconnected populations opportunities for health, education, and economic progress, and research shows that each additional 10% of internet penetration adds 1.2% to per-capita GDP growth in emerging markets*. 

For all of these reasons, we are soliciting solutions that may approach the problem from one of three different perspectives: innovative Technology Applications (TA) to increase broadband access or otherwise enable connectivity; innovative Business Models (BM) that result in increased affordability; or innovative programs that increase User Enablement (UE), or the likelihood that populations choose to adopt available broadband access where previously they did not.

Competitors fall into two primary tracks: 

  • Proof-of-Concept track: These competitors have programs/projects that have been deployed to some degree and have tangible results to report. The programs/projects should be early-stage in their lifecycle and can fall within TA, BM or UE categories.
  • Concept-Only track: These competitors are proposing novel ideas for TA, BM or UE that have not yet been tested or demonstrated but could result in significant innovative advances. Prizes in this track will be lower than the POC track.

The Challenge will culminate in an IEEE Future Networks event, the Connecting the Unconnected Summit, which will convene experts and thought leaders on the issue of internet connectivity. This multi-day event will attract regulators, standards setting bodies, non-profits, international companies, and others to share current thinking on critical topics of innovation and connectivity. At the Summit, winners of the Challenge will have an opportunity to present their solutions to the global audience and receive public recognition for their IEEE award. 

About IEEE: IEEE is the world’s largest technical professional association, with over 400,000 members in more than 160 countries dedicated to “advancing technology for humanity.” 

About IEEE Future Networks: The IEEE Future Networks Initiative (FNI) was designed to help pave a clear path through development and deployment of 5G and the great potential it enables, while envisioning the landscape of connectivity and applications beyond 5G. Recognizing that networking is larger than a single technology, standard, organization, or region, FNI is gathering the world’s researchers, scientists, engineers, and policymakers from industry, academia, and governments to solve the challenges and reveal the opportunities associated with current and future networks. In 2019, FNI created a working group called Connecting the Unconnected, which contributed a chapter to the International Network Generations Roadmap, proposing ideas whereby future network generation upgrades should have connectivity included as a standard, rather than considered as an afterthought.