The Boston area is home to innovative thinkers with an entrepreneurial spirit, and we proudly support their efforts in the community. One of the ways we do so is by directly sponsoring participants in MassChallenge. MassChallenge’s intense training program works to provide startups with the necessary resources to help them succeed, including meeting spaces, mentorship opportunities and more.
Microsoft New England is excited to announce the winners of this year’s Microsoft Scholarship for Civic Innovation: Agora Town Hall, CityTaps, SHRI: Sanitation and Health Rights in India, and Revision Venture.
Although our blog consistently highlights the benefits of “civic tech,” we want to take this opportunity to note the nuances with which these start-ups have addressed problems in civic life. A civic tech start-up does not simply try to solve an urban problem, but rather questions (1) why the problem exists, (2) what the parameters are to solving the problem and (3) how the start-up can integrate itself into the confines of the already existing community. We specifically wanted to find start-ups that helped public officials deliver improved services to private citizens. As a MassChallenge sponsor, we will award $5,000 to eligible startups participating in our scholarship.
Our scholarship recipients:
Agora is changing the way that local residents interact with the city government. Noticing the gap between those who want to participate in town hall meetings, and those who can make the time to attend town hall meetings, Agora created an online town-hall platform. By utilizing the ubiquitous nature of the Internet, Agora hopes to entice more civically minded citizens to take a stand in their community. Furthermore, Agora encourages users to share data pertaining to the improvement of the city on the platform.
CityTaps has created a “smart water metering system” to alleviate a common struggle: certain segments of the population, particularly those with an earning capacity under minimum wage or with an irregular income (approximately 750 million people world-wide), cannot access running water at home. With CityTaps, citizens can prepay for water with any mobile phone. CityTaps’ payment system unites utility companies and consumers through a transparent and trustworthy platform.
- SHRI: Sanitation and Health Rights in India
SHRI: Sanitation and Health Rights in India objective is to decrease the incidence of outdoor defecation in rural India. A true civic tech venture, SHRI is an advocate of both health equity and social and economic justice. Currently, SHRI is working in the Supaul district of Bihar and, according to company statistics, over 75% of the area’s 2.2 million residents defecate outside. SHRI seeks to recycle human waste into a usable energy source; this energy will then be used to produce clean drinking water.
- Revision Ventures
Revision Ventures is fostering a partnership between low-income youth with a penchant for digital media, and small income businesses, which need help with their web presence. Working through the existing connections of community organizations, government divisions and business associations, Revision Ventures is creating a new kind of market place to create opportunities in a space where none previously existed.
We are excited to have such a great group of finalists this year and can’t wait to see what is created. Congratulations and best of luck to all the finalists and winners!
Take a look at this year’s MassChallenge finalists here.