Rules and Expectations

Phase II Submission in progress until 28 August 2023!

IEEE recognizes that the Digital Divide is not merely a technical problem. For this reason, the Connecting the Unconnected Challenge will reward submissions across three different categories:

The Challenge competitors fall into two primary tracks:

Concept-Only Track

For this challenge, we’re looking for submissions from individuals or groups who are proposing novel and innovative ideas in the TA, BM or CE categories. Every new and innovative product, service or program started with a brilliant idea that was sparked in someone’s mind. Do you have one of those brilliant ideas that no one has tried before?

Proof-of-Concept Track

This challenge track invites submissions from individuals or groups who have already demonstrated their innovation with a basic proof-of-concept implementation, or a pilot program, and can show preliminary results, or successful field deployment(s). The programs/projects should be early-stage in their lifecycle and can fall within TA, BM or CE categories.

Submissions should include a description of the general design and proposed functionality — including implementation of specific features. This track is only for early-stage projects/programs, not well-established programs with a multi-year track-record.

2023 Theme: Gender Inclusion

In 2023 IEEE is partnering with USAID to bring more focus to the persistent gender-based inequalities in how women access, integrate with, and are empowered by digital technology. As countries continue to digitize, the ongoing exclusion of women from online spaces will widen economic and gender inequality, which will limit inclusive sustainable development. For women who have managed to secure access to digital technology, a new set of challenges and harms await them online.

The 2023 CTU Challenge will add a new prize for Best Overall Gender Inclusion Proof-of-Concept. This award will go to the Proof-of-Concept track contestant in any category (TA, BM, or CE) whose project or solution makes a significant impact or effort in closing the gender digital divide. Applicants will have an opportunity during Phases 2 and 3 of the competition to demonstrate how they have focused on gender inclusion within various KPIs, and generally. For more information, be sure to read the Contest Rules and Call for Participation.

New in 2023: Focus on Canada

In partnership with VMware and Mitacs, the 2023 CTU Challenge will add a new prize for Best Overall from Canada. In 2021, VMware, Mitacs and IEEE Future Networks partnered on Digital Equity Grid Innovation initiative in Montreal, also known as TETRA, which aims to advance applied research on sustainable grids, clean tech, and digital equity. This new prize seeks to entice innovators across Canada to bring their innovative projects and ideas to the forefront. Proof of Concept and Concept Only applicants from Canada are eligible.

The Challenge competition
will be executed in three stages.

In the first stage (Phase 1) participants are expected to submit a short, initial submission that includes a 500-word abstract describing their solution. Those who advance to Phase 2 will be asked to complete a second, more detailed online submission, which may require additional supporting materials. In Phase 3, a select number of applicants will be invited to present to our Selection Committee in a private, live/virtual session with Q&A. The whole process is expected to last approximately 3 months from start to finish. Winners will be recognized at an awards ceremony during the IEEE Connecting the Unconnected Summit which takes place December 4, 2023.  Some winners will be invited to present their solution live at the Summit.

All finalists will be required to present their solution online to the Selection Committee. All finalists will be required to undergo a due diligence procedure to verify submitted information before final ranking is determined. All awardees will be required to produce and submit a video of their solution which will be posted publicly by IEEE. All awardees will be required to provide updated information about their solution one year following the award date. IEEE will not conduct a follow-up audit and participants will not be required to indicate how the award money was used.

The IEEE Connecting the Unconnected Summit

The Connecting the Unconnected Challenge will culminate in an IEEE Future Networks event, the Connecting the Unconnected Summit. During this event, experts and thought- leaders will convene to discuss the issue of internet connectivity. Regulators, standards setting bodies, non-profits, international companies, and other experts will be there to share current thinking on critical topics of innovation and connectivity. It’s during this Summit that the winners of the Challenge will have an opportunity to present their solutions in front of a global audience and receive public recognition for their IEEE awards.