The Smart Village Challenge

Around the world, societies are confronting increasingly urgent, complex, and costly social challenges, including chronic illness, income inequality, education gaps, and sustainability concerns, to name just a few. As a result, businesses around the world are developing marketable solutions that aim to address these global challenges, maximizing positive impact while minimizing their financial, environmental and social costs.  

While social issues seem magnified in city environments, non-urban communities endure their own pain points. On July 10th, Social Finance Israel joined a cross-sector gathering of practitioners, entrepreneurs and innovators in Tel Aviv for The Smart Village Challenge, an event aimed at showcasing the development of tech-based  solutions for village communities. The event was co-sponsored by the Israel Innovation Institute and the German Embassy. After welcoming remarks from the Ambassador of Germany, representatives of the Israel Innovation Institute and Ministry of Economics, five organizations pitched their companies, hoping to win the evening´s start-up competition.  
  • AgriTask, a company increasing coordination within the agricultural sector, aims to provide better tracking of investments and more sustainable output. For example, AgriTask maps pest outbreaks, allowing critical information to be passed to neighboring farmers to avoid further damage. This results in greater agricultural productivity and environmental safety. The AgriTask team were chosen as the evening´s winners! 
  • AlephBot focuses on providing healthcare services for those in rural communities where there is lower density of general physicians. They do this through Artificial Intelligence technology, which allows for patients to speak to the Alephbot, provide medical data, and subsequently receive treatment recommendations. More generally, AlephBot helps to improve treatment quality and efficiency, aiming to increase access, save lives and reduce costs in the process.  
  • Annoto aims to build a more interactive learning community among students studying remotely by providing online video viewers with features that enable active, targeted collaboration and communication. For example, the Annoto tool explicitly links comments to their specific moment in a video, allowing peers undergoing similar remote studying experiences to learn more efficiently together. For rural communities with limited resources, Annoto makes online education a more effective and engaging medium. 
  • Neteera is developing innovative and disruptive sensing technologies that can be applied across sectors. Neteera´s micro-radar enables remote detection and imaging, including measurement of micro-movements. aims to improve the quality of remotely gathered medical information. Neteera´s initial micro-radar product, which can be installed anywhere in the house, is capable of measuring heart and breathing rates, as well as other vital-signs more accurately than existing alternatives, enabling improved monitoring and timeliness of treatment. For at- risk patients without sufficient access to care facilities or relatives close by, this technology is paramount. 
  • ShareRoute provides a solution for rural communities with limited transportation options available to them. Their optimized, on-demand, shared shuttle solution offers door-to-door and station-to-station options, increasing access to mobility, in a more efficient and more sustainable way. With ShareRoute, marginalized communities will have a less costly alternative to using private vehicles, or taxis and in the process  reduce fuel usage and emissions while promoting increased economic inclusion. 

After the start-ups made their pitches, a fascinating panel discussed various socioeconomic challenges specific to non-urban areas, placing an emphasis on potential and existing technological solutions. As if the line-up of innovative companies were not enough, the panel discussion made abundantly clear the enormous potential to address these challenges head on by deploying both existing and innovative technological solutions in underserved rural communities .

To ensure businesses are tackling social and environmental challenges in the most cost-effective and equitable ways, companies are encouraged to identify a set of metrics to measure and track their impact performance. This added layer of accountability is widely practiced in the impact investment space, where investors intentionally seek out companies that demonstrate – qualitatively and/or quantitatively - the positive impact they are having. Impact metrics are also strategic, they build trust among users and backers, signaling during the company´s growth stages that ensuring positive impact is baked in to the company´s management approach and DNA. We need companies that address the needs of all people, young and old, urban and rural. These are the companies that are already leading by example and we encourage them to go one step further by placing impact management at their core.  

To find out how Social Finance Israel can help you learn about best practice in the impact space, write to us at [email protected]

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