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International Partnerships

Smart Development Fund

The aim of the Smart Development Fund is to refine digital solutions to counter COVID-19 challenges in, and with, EU partner countries.

Smart Development Fund

COVID-19 is challenging the world in an unprecedented manner. The crisis has had a far-reaching impact on the global economy, health and social changes – especially in developing countries. For instance, it is expected that COVID-19 will drive Sub-Saharan Africa into its first recession in 25 years, with growth potentially falling as low as -5% in 2020.

In response to the pandemic the European Commission has adopted a Team Europe approach in supporting its partner countries. With the aim of providing creative solutions, an innovative competition began in April 2020 - the #SmartDevelopmentHack. The main objective for the contestants was to think outside the box and enter solutions from the digital world for direct application in the development sector.

Smart Development Fund programme
Smart Development Fund programme, 'Audiopedia' © URIDU (Marcel Heyne)

Over 1,000 solutions were submitted and around 300 implementation partners were involved in the competition process. From a pre-selection of the 20 best projects, 250 participants from Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe refined their solutions in a digital workshop (hackathon) format between the 14-15 May 2020. 

The jury agreed on the following winning solutions:

  1. CallvsCorona: Real-time crisis information in Madagascar and beyond (Scaling: Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, Haiti), establishing a hotline to connect the local government and its people during the COVID-19 crisis.
  2. Audiopedia (Region: Global South). An open source tool of audio content and technologies for health education, making relevant information accessible to anybody anywhere.
  3. Digital Agriculture Africa (Region: Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda). The solution provides a 'Farm to Fork Solution'- a digital food security and agriculture supply value chain platform. It promotes zero contact preventing the spread of COVID-19, by using technology to improve access to food and its distribution. 
  4. Digital Enquirer Kit (Region: Chile, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Thailand, Uganda, Colombia, Brazil, Ghana, Laos, Zambia, Mauritania, Philippines, Peru, Turkey). The kit is a set of mobile online learnings, providing capacity development for journalists, civil society activists and human rights defenders. It helps them identify and navigate misinformation around COVID-19 and to keep themselves and their essential work safe.
  5. Drone + Data Aid (Region: Malawi, Rwanda). This drone solution ensures an efficient health supply chain in remote areas, and maps pre- and post-COVID-19 impacts. It establishes a “multi-purpose” drone network with local graduates entering professions such as pilots, project managers and safety and maintenance workers. This initiative works in an innovative ecosystem with the necessary legal and governmental infrastructure to support it.
  6. Matchmaking platform for national health system in Peru (Region: Peru). The cloud-based matchmaking platform is accessible on every internet-connected device, improving management processes and optimizing logistics in the health care system. It helps the government secure Peruvian citizens’ right to health care and hence plays a vital role in the country’s COVID-19 taskforce.
  7. Mbaza – AI Chatbot (Region: Rwanda). The chatbot provides access to valuable COVID-19 information in plain language on any phone at any time and enables feedback connecting people to the authorities. It allows citizens to raise concerns and provide governments with information on the local situation.
  8. Mobilising Rural Women Entrepreneurs for COVID-19 Response and Recovery (Region: Bangladesh). The solution will use existing connections with women entrepreneurs to reach and support the most vulnerable in these areas. It links existing resources to build female entrepreneurs’ capacity for service delivery (e.g. home-made masks, disinfectants and soaps) and intergrates them into community-based partnership development.
  9. Yoma powered by atingi (Region: Sub-Sahara). A digital platform for youth to build their futures by actively engaging in social impact, learning and economic opportunities. The platform creates a marketplace of opportunities for both youth participants who engage in these opportunities and organisations (social impact, corporate, SMEs, educational institutions, and more).

Scope and objectives

Smart Developement Fund programme
Smart Developement Fund programme, 'CallvsCorona' © Viamo

The overall objective of the #SmartDevelopmentFund is to refine digital solutions to counter COVID-19 challenges in and with the EU partner countries.

The expected result of the programme is the development, scale-up and promotion of innovative digital solutions, supporting  the EU partner countries’ response to COVID-19. The following outputs are being pursued:

  • The digital solutions from the #SmartDevelopmentHack are developed and scaled-up. This will support the development and replication of nine solutions in partner countries, bringing together innovative solution providers with implementing partners.
  • The #SmartDevelopmenHack solutions are promoted through a multi-stakeholder approach and outreach strategy. By promoting digital technology business models in cooperation with stakeholders from the digital ecosystem, the development of inclusive and responsible digital ecosystems  is fostered.


  • 150 000 listeners through the CallvsCorona hotline
  • 95 radio dramas on Covid-19 aired with CallvsCorona
  • 6 mobile phone training modules developed with CallvsCorona
  • 200 000 youth were engaged in Yoma challenges
  • 9 000 prototypes were built by youth through Yoma
  • 1 700 hours of Mbaza AI Chatbot data set were recorded
  • 900 hours of Kinyarwanda voice data were recorded for Mbaza AI Chatbot

Key information

Total budget

€20 million

EU contribution

€10 million


2020 - 2022

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