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‘Innovate for Refugees’ award winners announced in Amman

By Mohammad Ghazal - Oct 04,2016 - Last updated at Oct 04,2016

AMMAN — Winners were announced on Tuesday in the “Innovate for Refugees” competition, honouring entrepreneurs with inventive ideas to address challenges facing refugees.  

A team from the US, “Change: Water Labs” and Moroccan team Evaptainers each won a $20,000 prize in the category for best technological solution, organisers announced at a ceremony held under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania.

Minister of Municipal Affairs Walid Masri deputised for Her Majesty at the ceremony.

The Evaptainers designed “mobile and modular evaporative coolers that are ideal for low-income, off-grid areas and that can triple or quadruple the shelf-life of most produce”, according to the competition’s website.

The “Change: Water Labs” project consists of a “revolutionary evaporative toilet that is low-cost, compact, stand-alone solution for off-grid and informal dwellings and which rapidly ‘flushes’ away 85-90 per cent of daily household sewage volumes”.

The NaTakallam project from the US, a platform connecting Syrian refugees with Arabic learners around the world to make money while teaching Arabic, also won a $20,000 prize. 

The LEDlife team from Switzerland won a $20,000 prize for their project to teach refugees how to use renewable energy technologies.

The Open Embassy project from the Netherlands won a $30,000 prize, while Recycle Beirut and Boloro and BanQ projects won $20,000 each.

Open Embassy is “an online helpdesk that enables... refugees with a permit to ask questions about their integration process”. From their answers, the project “develops an FAQ and a smart wiki and shares the lessons learnt with the key stakeholders”.

Boloro and BanQ “brings financial inclusion and economic opportunity solutions for refugees”, according to the contest’s organisers.

The competition was launched in June 2016 in partnership with Zain Group and MBC Hope, supported by UNHCR, UNICEF, Jusoor and Uber. 

It has over 30 partners, including TechFugees and the International Refugee Committee. 

Hala Fadel, chair of the MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab, said a total of 1,633 entries were submitted in the competition, which was focused on the deployment of technology to help address issues in the refugee crisis. 

In a panel discussion ahead of the award ceremony, experts stressed the important role technology plays in the inclusion of refugees and in enhancing their opportunities to receive proper education.

MIT Professor Admir Masic said providing refugees with access to education and deploying technology for this purpose can help improve the lives of refugees. 

“We need to use technology and optimally utilise it to give education to refugees,” he said during the discussion.

Alexandre Mars, founder and CEO of Epic Foundation, stressed the need to mobilise people to give to refugees, and said technology could play a key role in this. 

“Governments cannot do the task alone, they need the involvement of all to address these issues,” he added.

The competition invited entrepreneurs and refugees from around the world to come up with tech-driven, innovative solutions to help address the global refugee crisis. 

Fifteen candidates were shortlisted in a review process by over 70 industry experts. 

Over 1,600 applications were received.


The basic needs, healthcare and education sectors were well represented in the applications, 32 per cent of which were submitted by women and 15 per cent by refugees.

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