WEA Digital Innovation Challenge: Building Enabling Ecosystems for Women Entrepreneurs

Women Enterpreneurship Accelerator

Developing a more gender-inclusive digital innovation ecosystem can elevate the economy and society by creating more jobs and accelerating innovation which is critical for countries to thrive and recover from the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19. 

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in collaboration with the Women Entrepreneurship Accelerator  (WEA) and Mary Kay Global, has launched the WEA Digital Innovation Challenge with the theme of Building enabling ecosystems for women entrepreneurs.  This challenge supports the commitment of WEA to empower 5 million women entrepreneurs by 2030 and is aligned with the 2023 Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67) Priority theme of “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.". WEA is a multi-partnership initiative on women's entrepreneurship convening the 6 United Nations agencies (ITU, International Labour Organization (ILO), International Trade Centre (ITC), UN Development Programme (UNDP) UN Global Compact (UNGC) and UN Women).

More than ever, it is crucial to maximize women's entrepreneurship impact in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by creating an enabling digital innovation ecosystem for women entrepreneurs worldwide.


The Challenge will help identify scalable, innovative digital solutions that enable countries, societies, communities, institutions and individuals to develop a more gender-inclusive digital entrepreneurship ecosystem promoting an environment that supports the creation and growth of women-owned and women-led enterprises.

The Challenge objective is to build vibrant and inclusive digital innovation ecosystems that empower women entrepreneurs by supporting existing digital solutions developed by women-owned companies or with a minimum of one female founder or by women acting as micro-entrepreneurs or innovative change makers working towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


To increase the potential/ capabilities of the selected proposals/teams, the Challenge will open access to the Digital Innovation Challenge Acceleration Programme (“the Programme”), providing:
  • capacity-building training, attending a virtual boot camp to refine further their plans and milestones (e.g. market entry, deployment, impact traction),
  • a specialised mentorship scheme,
  •  access to a network of change-makers,
  • a publication of the case in a Best Practice Report
The WEA Digital Innovation Challenge will bring resources and expertise from various industries and sectors to support mentoring and capacity development for the selected innovators.


Key Dates Activities
7 December 2022
2022 WEA Digital Innovation Challenge Launch
21 February 2023
End of WEA Digital Innovation Challenge Submissions
2 March 2023
Shortlisted Candidates Announcement
6 -17 March 2023
(exact dates to be disclosed closer to the time)
Pitch Competition Session and WEA Digital Innovation Challenge winners announcement

28 to 31 March 2023
Capacity Building Training Virtual Bootcamp
31 March 2023
Mentorship Programme starts
22 June 2023
Mentorship Programme ends
To be confirmed
Certification Ceremony


  • The Challenge is open to governments, international organizations, NGOs, private sector companies and start-ups, research institutions, academia and civil society organizations (CSOs) (collectively, the “the Participants” and each a “Participant”). 
  • Only legal entities which are legally registered in an ITU Member State and have at least one female member in the leadership team (e.g. founder, chief executive, or similar) are eligible to participate in the Challenge.
  • Only one submission per Participant will be permitted. Multiple submissions from the same Participant who submit multiple entries will be disqualified.
  • Participants must have an existing project or minimum viable product (MVP) that:
    • has already been implemented or tested,
    • promotes and supports female entrepreneurship within digital innovation ecosystems,
    • demonstrates a new innovative project/prototype, outlining its potential for scaling up, and
    • is a digital solution.
  • The participant representing the initiative must have availability to participate in a four-day virtual boot camp on the designated dates for a two(2)-hour session per day and availability to meet their mentor and programme team until the end of the programme (see key dates above).
  • The participant representing the initiative must be fluent in the English language.
See more details at Challenge brief and Terms and Conditions


The Selection Committee will use the evaluation criteria below for shortlisting, at its discretion, 20 to 25 best submissions. The final winners will be selected after the Pitch Competition 1 February 2023. Each criterion has been assigned a percentage weight for scoring:
  • 20% for Relevance: The innovation should demonstrate how it will fulfills the achievement of at least one of the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • 15% for Adaptability: Should demonstrate its adaptability and replicability to the local context and global
  • 15% for Sustainability: Demonstrate a business model that promotes sustainable and continuous impact in the short or long term
  • 15% for Viability: Demonstrate the viability of the solution in terms of its effectiveness and feasibility
  • 20% for Partnership: Engagement with local and global partners in other countries to assure viability in local conditions, and to promote sustainability and scalability of the solution
  • 15% for Impact: The innovation must showcase how it has the potential and has already impacted lives and driven socio-economic benefit, especially among vulnerable and excluded populations


  • Representatives of Participants warrant that all information submitted is true, complete, and up-to-date and that they are authorized to participate in the Challenge on behalf of their respective institution/organization. ITU reserves the right to verify eligibility for participation in the Challenge as well as the accuracy of submitted information.
  • All submissions must not: a. violate the intellectual property rights of third parties; b. be illegal under applicable national laws and international law; c. depict or incite hatred, defame, abuse, harass, stalk, threaten a specific person or social group, incite violence or conflict or otherwise violate the legal rights of third parties (including those of privacy and publicity) and d. violate the terms of use of any social media service, website, mobile application or any other platform used in connection with such submission.
  • Participants accept the Terms and Conditions described in the Challenge brief and Terms and Conditions by virtue of entering the Challenge.