The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa wrapped up its SolveIT! competition with a public showcase of 31 innovative technology projects on September 22, 2018. SolveIt! is a national innovation competition launched by the U.S. Embassy in collaboration with U.S.-based NGO Humanity plus (H+) and iCog Labs and an Ethiopian Artificial Intelligence (AI) company.
The SolveIT! program offered training and mentorship to young Ethiopians in nine regional cities to help them address challenges in their communities by developing their projects from ideas to practical solutions. Along the way they received training in a variety of areas including marketing, software and hardware development, start-ups, entrepreneurship, and pro-poor technologies.
Participants in Addis Ababa, Bahir Dar, Dire Dawa, Gambella, Hawassa, Jigjiga, Jimma, Mekelle and Semera developed their projects and then competed for a spot in the national competition taking place this week in Addis Ababa. Over the course of the week, they also took part in a tech start-up boot camp, with visits to private sector incubators, government agencies focused on technology, and a chance to pitch their ideas to potential investors.
The regional winning projects focused on a variety of social and economic challenges in the participants’ communities, including an application to help farmers diagnose and treat crop diseases, a bio-metric voting system, an electronic “eye” to assist the blind, a safe oxygen delivery system for infants, and many more. At the closing ceremony U.S. Ambassador Michael Raynor told participants, “As Ethiopia embarks on the hard work of building its brighter future, there will be challenges. But as this competition shows, challenges exist to be solved, and the challenges Ethiopia faces will be solved first and foremost by Ethiopians.”
In total, the SolveIt! competition registered over 1,600 young Ethiopian innovators for the technical and entrepreneurship training, leading to the development of 85 innovative and marketable tech products and services that can be scaled up to address everyday needs in Ethiopia.
SolveIT! is an example of the many ways the United States continues to invest in the capacity of Ethiopians to achieve the bright future they deserve.