Imagine a new, sustainable way of cooling the world’s data centres that not only reduces waste heat but transforms it into an efficient source of energy.

A healthcare app to collect and store patient information, developed in Mozambique but with the power to improve health systems and patient outcomes throughout Africa and beyond.

Or a South Korean platform making use of machine learning and drones to provide real-time checks on road conditions, an Indonesian micro-financing platform for SMEs, or a Nairobi-based firm providing innovative connectivity solutions to connect students in off-grid schools.

All fantastic ideas, all creative uses of technology with a very real positive impact in the world – and all winners of the ITU Telecom World SME Awards programme, a United Nations platform offering visibility, credibility, partnerships and business lead to startups and SMEs from across the globe since 2015.

The Awards programme is designed to help SMEs take those ideas to scale, building opportunities through an exciting mix of showcasing, pitching, masterclasses, mentorship and networking. At ITU Telecom (a division of ITU, the UN lead agency for digital technologies), we’ve been organizing major international events connecting public and private sectors, governments, industry and tech SMEs, for nearly 50 years. Launched in 2015, the SME Awards Programme focuses on supporting and fostering the growth of small businesses in the ICT sector, in recognition of their critical importance in driving industry growth, creating jobs and accelerating social and economic development around the world.

As an integral pillar of the events, the Awards Programme has proved increasingly successful over the past five years – and we are committed to providing the opportunities it offers this year, too, despite having postponed our next physical event due to the ongoing global pandemic.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed just how much we depend on digital technology in every area of our lives, as individuals, societies, businesses and governments. Now more than ever we need creative SMEs with innovative tech solutions – and those tech startups and entrepreneurs need support and encouragement from the industry.

Which is why holding a Virtual Awards competition takes on a particular significance. It’s not just about continuing to grow our community and offer the opportunity to tech SMEs working for social good – it’s also a chance to recognize excellence, build resilience and foster investment in tech SMEs in the midst of an unprecedented global crisis.

So we have moved online for our first ITU Digital SME Virtual Awards this December, a programme of masterclasses, pitching sessions and virtual awards. 

As a startup or SME, you can enter your innovative solution in one of four categories: Connectivity, increasing universal access to the internet; Smart cities, smart living, using digital tech to improve urban life in areas such as energy, food management or education; E-health, improving healthcare through remote diagnosis, monitoring or care in the home; and Digital Finance, increasing and improving access to the economy for the banked and unbanked.

Apply now to take part in a series of targeted virtual masterclasses on pitching to clients, raising funding and developing capacity. And if you’re selected for the shortlist, you’ll be pitching live online to our expert jury of investors, UN experts, business and tech specialists this December.

The winners will receive online visibility on the ITU Digital World website, UN recognition, a unique certificate of achievement – and an invitation to join us at our next physical event, ITU Digital World 2021 in Hai Noi, Viet Nam, in October 2021, and take part in our full SME Programme on-site and in person.

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And if you’re in any doubt about the value of taking part, see what our winners from previous events have to say. Including Switzerland’s Serge Conesa, CEO & Founder of Immersion4, that groundbreaking data centre cooling system: “Being recognized for our work, this is just the beginning, there is a long journey ahead but it has started so well – people here understand the problems and really want to make a difference. It’s overwhelming!”

Or Mulweli Rebolo of Ologa Sistemas from Mozambique, developers of the Sure Track healthcare app: “This Award took us to a new level, with many invitations to participate in events, talk about our product and speak at various panels – and we’ve been approached by several entities who would like to pilot the solution with a view to becoming a client.”

Fellow Award winner Iwan Kurniawan, CEO of micro-financing platform Modalku, agrees: “The Global SME was uplifting for our brand, enhancing our credibility with the Indonesian public as well as investors, existing and new. We more than doubled our business within 6 months of winning, raised a US$25M Series B funding and have hired many more great people into our team”.

Not forgetting the team from KISED, the Korea Institute of Startup & Entrepreneurship Development, who took part in the 2019 Awards programme with a host of high-growth potential startups and SMEs using innovative technology – and took away a host of business and investment proposals amounting to 11.57m USD in business consultation from 607 meetings. Highlights included a 2m USD proposal for 4S Mapper, the road-checking solution, as well as advanced negotiations on a national digital transportation agency in Saudi Arabia; investment and partnership options from governments in Ghana, Mozambique and Nigeria looking to work with Livebook, a smart photo O20 service; and a deal for Coding Array to provide coding teaching materials to universities in Hungary. 

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Real value, real leads, real opportunities – the benefits of taking part are very real, even if the platform is virtual. Be a part of it – apply for the ITU Digital World Virtual SME Awards 2020 now.

ITU Digital World SME Virtual Awards 2020 takes place online from 30 November to 7 December 2020 – find out more here

ApaNa is a proud media partner of the ITU Digital World SME Virtual Awards 2020

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