14 May 2020: With the emergence of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka, the country has seen far reaching social and economic consequences affecting the livelihoods of many individuals. Every country needs to act immediately to prepare, respond, and recover; and innovative minds can become a bridge in overcoming these challenges.
The United Nations Development Programme in Sri Lanka through its premier Youth Social Innovation Platform 'HackaDev' has launched the ‘HackaDev COVID-19 Innovation Challenge’. A platform calling on innovators in Sri Lanka to bring forward their solutions to help fight the impacts of the pandemic. The challenge will source ideas and solutions from budding social entrepreneurs across the country to support, respond and recover, with a focus on the most vulnerable groups.
The HackaDev COVID-19 Innovation Challenge is now open for ideas, and can be accessed at https://hackadev.lk/covid-19/ and any Sri Lankan above the age of 15 years can apply with their ideas via either English, Sinhala or Tamil languages, either as teams or individuals. Ideas considered can vary from those related to health systems support, resilient crisis management and immediate socio-economic recovery aspects among others. To date, more than 150 applications have been received in response to the call of applications.
A base challenge fund of LKR 1 Million is already set up with partner contributions. Innovative solutions to address the immediate challenges around COVID-19 are eligible for cash grants up to LKR 100,000 with other mentoring support to fast track the idea. Ideas will be evaluated by an expert panel on a rolling basis, weekly, with the deadline for each round falling on every Sunday. Shortlisted ideas will be invited for a virtual idea audition, following which the best solutions will be selected to receive the challenge prize.
The initiative is carried out in partnership with the Ministry of Higher Education, Technology and Innovation, Coordinating Secretariat for Science, Technology and Innovation (COSTI), Sri Lanka Inventors Commission (SLIC) the Vocational Training Authority (VTA), the Sri Lanka Institute of Nano Technology (SLINTEC), University of Moratuwa, Dialog Ideamart, PwC Startup Accelerator, Startup X Foundry, CISCO Networking Academy, Youth Co:Lab and the Citra Social Innovation Lab, with a number of other partners in the process of joining hands with the programme.
Speaking of this Challenge, Resident Representative of UNDP in Sri Lanka Robert Juhkam stated, “As the world grapples with the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, young people are demonstrating their continued leadership in their communities and countries. At UNDP, we are pleased to provide a platform to encourage young people to develop and materialize their innovative ideas so Sri Lanka can better respond and recover from the impacts of COVID-19.”
As Sri Lanka attempts to navigate the ‘new normals’ in a post COVID-19 context, UNDP encourages all innovators and entrepreneurial young people to apply with their idea to help mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. UNDP also invites interested organizations from both the public and private sectors to partner with UNDP to collectively work towards crowdsourcing more ideas to help Sri Lanka build forward from COVID-19.