11 December 2019

How can social entrepreneurs save the future of cities?

Written by Matthew Minor, Director, International Programs, MIT Solve
11 December 2019

More than half of the world’s ever-increasing population lives in urban areas, with that number growing by the day. According to the United Nations, we expect that by 2050 nearly 70% of people will live in cities, impacting our food supply, transportation and sanitation systems, how and where we work, learn, and sleep – just about everything will be affected by increased urbanisation.

How can cities absorb this influx of people without developing new and more efficient ways of building, transporting, and consuming resources? Without significant disruption across urban infrastructure, the cities of the future will struggle to keep up, much less make progress toward things like mitigating climate change or providing quality education to every student.

At MIT Solve, a marketplace for social impact innovation, we aim to find and support tech-based solutions from entrepreneurs who are addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges - from preparing the workforce for the future of work to building resilient coastal communities in the face of climate change.

Luckily for us, the infrastructure industry is experiencing a significant increase in entrepreneurial activity, which is necessary to find the solutions that are already working and can be scaled to impact more communities.

Sustainable Urban Communities

One example of a social entrepreneur that Solve supports is CityTaps. CityTaps is transforming the economic relationship between utilities and poor utility subscribers.

As many people in urban communities across the world cannot afford to pay for monthly water bills, utility providers cannot provide service to them. CityTaps’ product, CTSuite, includes a smart prepaid water meter and cloud billing software that controls water access. Subscribers use mobile money to pay-as-they-go for water service, giving utilities  cash flow to be financially independent and invest in at-home water service for even the poorest customers.  

A New Challenge Focused on Disrupting Infrastructure

We know there are many more entrepreneurs across the world tackling infrastructure issues with new technologies - who will be eager to work with the Global Infrastructure Hub on the InfraChallenge powered by MIT Solve.

This global innovation competition is calling for digital ideas that can be applied to solve economic or social infrastructure issues and build momentum towards better and sustainable infrastructure. This includes how cities can embrace smart technology solutions to improve quality of life, managing environmental risks with Artificial Intelligence, and the potential for digitisation to improve electricity networks.

Applicants have until February 24, 2020 to apply—learn more about the InfraChallenge, powered by MIT Solve, here.

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