One such innovative model can be found in South Korea, which is the first country in history to go from receiving ODA to being a donor. In 2015, the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) launched the Creative Technology Solution (CTS) programme with the idea of attracting entrepreneurs and startups to work on solving particularly difficult development challenges. By bringing innovators into the international development cooperation space, the CTS has successfully harnessed creative ideas and new technologies to deliver solutions to communities in developing countries while also assisting startups in global expansion.
CREATIVE TECH SOLUTIONS
The CTS seeks to partner with South Korean entrepreneurs and innovators who are socially minded and who offer products or services in such areas as energy, global health, climate action, education, and agriculture. Through tailored training and support, the CTS assists its participants in connecting with venture capitalists and networks in their target country and in localising their offerings.
In this way, companies whose products or services can address social and environmental problems in less developed countries can receive the support and guidance they need to successfully launch overseas.
The programme has three stages: Seed 0, Seed 1, and Seed 2. Seed 0 provides participating entrepreneurs with education and training on development cooperation. During Seed 0, participants receive one-on-one mentoring in market research, business strategy and modelling, project planning, and proposal writing.
Entrepreneurs are also connected with accelerators in their target countries who can assist in localisation and reaching their target market. The goal of this stage is to build capacity among prospective entrepreneurs who seek to advance into developing countries.
Applicants who successfully complete Seed 0 as well as applicants with solid business plans for how to expand into developing countries can participate in the Seed 1 stage. This stage requires companies to create proof of concept and working prototypes of their product or service. Participants must also clearly confirm that their product or service has a sufficient number of beneficiaries in their target country.
The final Seed 2 stage helps participants launch a pilot, focusing on tailoring their business model and strategy to smoothly integrate into the local scene. Awards offered at each stage vary between $250,000 and $420,000.
RELIABLE ANSWERS TO REAL PROBLEMS
The 2023 Seed 0 programme was planned and run by the Korea Social Investment Foundation, a private non-profit accelerator specialising in environmental, social, and governance criteria as well as the impact sector. The foundation has been involved with the CTS since 2021.
The specific goals of each annual CTS are varied to ensure that it is consistently attracting a variety of social entrepreneurs who will establish projects in different countries. Seed 0 last year called for applications from companies established no later than seven years ago who sought to address development issues in India, Indonesia, or Vietnam.
Among the total of 47 companies that participated, there were three that rose to the top as having particularly spectacular potential, including Nanu, Trackfarm, and Albaam.
In a rapidly changing world where tech innovations can change our lives seemingly overnight, new models of ODA that go beyond traditional funding models to promote technology transfer and localisation of social entrepreneurs have the potential to help close the gap of inequality. KOICA’s CTS programme supports the entry of digital startup entrepreneurs into developing countries because it recognises the potential of innovation and technology to reduce poverty and drive economic growth.
At the same time, the programme helps innovative startups acquire the necessary skills and know-how to transform into truly global companies that can share their solutions on a broader global scale. The CTS offers a unique example of how to combine startup acceleration investment with ODA initiatives, encouraging the application of pioneering technologies and ideas to difficult social and environmental challenges in less developed countries.
Like many developing countries, Vietnam has recently been inundated with plastic waste, producing approximately 3.1 million tonnes of plastic each year that is not recycled. But plastic is not the only problem – as the country’s agricultural industry has grown over the past two decades, so have its agricultural by products such as rice husks and coconut shells that are left in the field after harvest.
Nanu, which is aiming to expand into Vietnam, has created an innovative solution that can simultaneously address the issues of plastic pollution and agricultural by product waste: eco-friendly pulp mould containers. Nanu uses agricultural byproducts (waste products) as raw materials to create pulp molds and applies its proprietary eco-friendly coating technology to add durability and water/heat resistance. The molds can then be used in place of plastic.
Nanu has already proven its pulp molds, working with companies in South Korea to supply everything from cosmetic packaging and meat containers to milk and ramen containers. By bringing its technology to Vietnam, Nanu hopes to reduce both agricultural byproduct pollution and plastic pollution by transforming “waste” agricultural byproducts into useful containers that can replace single-use plastics. Nanu estimates that full implementation of its technology in the country would reduce up to 620,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, while also helping Vietnam strengthen its overall waste management system.
Vietnam is home to the world’s third-largest livestock production and consumption market, yet pig farming faces continued difficulties with Vietnamese pig farmers losing up to 20 per cent of their livestock to disease, a rate two to four times higher than in other countries. In addition to a warm climate that makes pigs prone to epidemics including swine flu, traditional local farming techniques hinder productivity.
Furthermore, farm owners lack effective and accurate health monitoring solutions and lack sufficient labour to manually collect health data on their herds. Combined, these factors have limited the growth of the pork industry despite high demand.
Trackfarm has created a smart livestock farming software solution that both optimises the environmental conditions in which pigs are raised and monitors their health status in real time. Trackfarm builds hog pens with automatic environmental sensing, automated ventilation, cameras, tags, and sensors, and an integrated AI platform to sense conditions and adjust as needed.
The solution comes with a customised dashboard that provides data management, alerts, and 24-hour monitoring so that farmers can immediately address issues as they arise. The environmental controls make it easy to foster ideal conditions for pigs to grow and remain healthy. Trackfarm expects its technology to help drive both local and national changes in how pig farming is practised, boosting productivity, income level, and overall value.
An estimated 2.4 billion people require physical therapy of some kind. Yet, according to the World Health Organization, there are just 26,000 skilled practitioners worldwide. The need for paediatric specialist treatment is particularly acute in countries with young populations like India.
At the same time, India has a high barrier to accessing medical care, with an estimated 71 per cent of disabled children residing in suburban areas that lack medical facilities. Treatment costs are high, and there is not a strong policy push to improve the situation.
In response to this need, Albaam created GemGemAR, a game which allows children to do physical therapy anywhere using a tablet or PC. The game is designed so that the input gestures are occupational therapy movements. Fully customisable, it helps children ages 4-10 develop fine motor control. The programme also instructs caregivers on massage techniques to provide an additional layer of passive treatment.
With GemGemAR, patients can access treatment for up to 30x longer than the average in-person therapist-mediated treatment time period. By allowing patients to engage in treatment with nothing more than a mobile phone, Albaam’s GemGemAR can offer new hope to both parents and children in India.
Design: Hung Nguyen | Author: Hara Nguyen