FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Hack4DigitalVillages innovation challenge

Fergana (Uzbekistan), 24/11/2023 - 26/11/2023

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in cooperation with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Project Co-ordinator in Uzbekistan and with support from IT Park and the CGIAR Accelerate for Impact Platform, is launching the call for applications for the Hack4DigitalVillages innovation challenge. 

The event has been developed to harness the intellectual and creative abilities of Fergana's youth and focus those energies on digital innovations for the benefit of rural people living in FAO’s pilot digital villages across the Fergana Valley of Uzbekistan.

The innovation challenge will provide a space for young developers, agricultural experts, and technology enthusiasts to co-create, and develop digital solutions that tackle the unique challenges and enhance agricultural practices of local farmers. It will take place from 24 to 26 November at the Fergana branch of the Tashkent University of Information Technologies. 

Over the course of three days, participating teams will meet their peers, learn from each other, and will have the opportunity to work directly with farmers. Throughout the challenge, they will benefit from the mentorship of experts from FAO, OSCE, Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), USAID, IT Park, Universities, and others, and will receive several trainings to refine their solutions and pitches.

Hack4DigitalVillages invites ambitious and innovative proposals from youth in Fergana Valley that harness the power of technology to tackle the following critical challenges affecting rural people in the region:

  • Greenhouse management
  • Water use and irrigation efficiency
  • Pesticide management and control 
  • Education for agribusiness development

The selection committee will review all applications and give special consideration to proposals that seek to explore the potential of the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) to solve the above-listed development challenges. Approximately 25 teams will be selected for participation.
Who can apply? 

Hack4DigitalVillages opens its doors, free of charge, to aspirants from 16 years old, who may apply as individuals as well as teams comprising from two to three participants. Those who do not have a team upon registration will be able to find their teammates on the first day of the challenge. The call is open for university students from the specified region, IT and agricultural professionals interested in developing technical solutions for defined agricultural challenges, marketing professionals, product owners, and farmers who are based locally in or near the Fergana valley.
In catering to a diverse pool of talent, the innovation will operate in Uzbek and English languages, with simultaneous translation provided in Russian. To ensure smooth communication, teams must include at least one English-speaking member.

In recognition of the exceptional young talent and innovation, Hack4DigitalVillages will award the top five teams with technological equipment valued cumulatively at USD 13 000, along with the opportunity for ongoing mentorship and support. The mentorship package will include coaching sessions tailored to each team’s needs as well as the possibility to use the IT Park's office space, computers, and 3D printers for six months. The aim is to help the winners grow their ideas into real businesses, with an opportunity to expand, and strengthen the science behind their work. 
We are accepting applications until 18:00 on 22 November 2023.

Embark on this journey of innovation by applying here:

🔗 https://forms.gle/jgn5SnBa3LdqEG3M9


The Hack4DigitalVillages innovation challenge is a special event within two initiatives of the FAO and the OSCE Project Coordinator in Uzbekistan:  

1. FAO’s Digital Villages Initiative (DVI) in Uzbekistan aims to improve agricultural productivity, enhance farmers' access to digital services, and to uplift rural livelihoods in the Fergana Valley. The initiative was launched in Uzbekistan in 2023 to shepherd the communities of Novkent and Yuksalish into a digitally driven future. It is shaped by a participatory approach aimed at empowering rural people, especially youth, to co-identify and develop solutions to the challenges rural communities face. 

The Digital Villages Initiative project in Uzbekistan encompasses several key elements. It includes the assembly of open-source smart farming IoT devices for greenhouses and the piloting of these devices among smallholders under the Digital Villages Camp. Additionally, the project integrates digital literacy and entrepreneurship training programs within target communities. Furthermore, it establishes the Digital Villages Hub, a digital platform for community knowledge sharing. This hub acts as a digital repository of agricultural know-how on Telegram and YouTube by amplifying learnings from the other activities it evolves with community input to ensure it serves the most pressing needs. Simultaneously, online DVI Living Labs sessions take place weekly where the communities of DVI target villages - Novkent and Yukhsalish get the chance to invite experts to address critical topics and facilitate knowledge exchange through online video chat. Furthermore, under the DVI framework, specific activities are organized to promote twinning with the DVI community in Tajikistan. The culmination of these interventions is the Hack4DigitalVillages innovation challenge. 

2. Within the framework of the Support to Economic Development project, the OSCE Project Coordinator in Uzbekistan (PCUz) aims to support small business development and increase employment opportunities for young people with the help of IT and digitalization. For many years, to encourage the development of ICT-based start-ups, the PCUz has been supporting a wide range of capacity-building initiatives and activities in cooperation with project partners. These contain acceleration programmes, incubation programmes, and IT-contests that have helped to strengthen business, digital and IT-capacities of multiple national stakeholders of Uzbekistan, including youth. 

Discover more about the Digital Villages Initiative here.

Read more about how the Digital Villages Initiative has already made an impact with smart sensors and living labs in Novkent and Yukhsalish here.