IEEE Future Networks: Connecting the Unconnected Challenge

Connecting the Unconnected Challenge


The IEEE Connecting the Unconnected Challenge is a new, global competition that solicits applications from early-stage projects and concepts that offer innovative ways to bridge the digital divide and connect unconnected (or under-connected) populations and regions.

Internet access is critical to education, industry, and healthy living. Unconnected populations lack access to sell goods and services online, and students lack access to schooling, which can force a decision between learning or earning a living. This digital divide is particularly impactful on women. According to UNESCO, across 10 countries in Africa, Asia, and South America, women are 30-50% less likely than men to make use of the internet, and at a global level, women are 23% less likely than men to use mobile internet.

In light of this dire and increasing need, IEEE’s Future Networks Initiative (FNI) has developed a competition that will reward projects and concepts that increase access and connectivity in less developed countries, or in areas of developed nations where connectivity is lacking. Open to start-ups, grassroots organizations, university projects, and others, the competition has two tracks that innovative solutions may fall under: a Proof-of-Concept Track and a Concept-Only Track.

Since solving connectivity issues is a multifaceted problem, each track also has different categories under which solutions may fall:

  • Technology Applications that increase broadband access or otherwise enable connectivity in innovative ways
  • Business Models that provide novel ways to make broadband connectivity more affordable
  • Community Enablement programs that increase the likelihood that populations choose to adopt available broadband access when previously they did not. (In these cases, supply and affordability are not problems, but people still don’t use the internet.)

Phase 1 of the competition will consist of a 500-word abstract, and the submission portal is scheduled to be open through 16 July. Those who advance to Phase 2 of the competition will complete longer applications in August.  Please visit the site for more information and help spread the word about this new program.

Please contact Ashutosh Dutta for more information!

Ashutosh Dutta, Ph.D.
Fellow of the IEEE
IEEE Future Networks Founding Co-Chair
IEEE Communications Society Distinguished Lecturer
Member-At-Large – IEEE Communications Society