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News and Events


News and Events

Emerging Worlds: INnovating for BiLlions

The EW Team is returning to INdia at the end of June

Stay tuned for event details

You will have an opportunity to :

- collaborate with MIT scientists and innovation experts
- hear from TCS what makes the DISQ innovation lab tick
- learn about ongoing projects and solutions
- experience the innovation model first-hand
- network and share insights with participants with a wide range of backgrounds
- propose future grand challenges
- step outside your daily routine to make a difference in the lives of billions


Emerging Worlds Team 

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KEY Themes

KEY Themes

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Here | there | together

Classic corporate innovation model earlier were to develop solutions in the west, ‘Here’, and deploy them as-is in emerging worlds. Later, the organizations sent expats ‘there’, opened labs in Sao Paulo, Bangalore and Beijing but this scales only minimally. But in complex ecosystems, we can make progress by solving it ‘together’.


Digital Apps for Connected Systems

Connected Apps for Physical Solutions

The ideas and solutions we are seeking, are not just mobile apps. They need to be well-thought out, integrated applications that address the digital and physical divide of the problem space. When used by one or more users (citizen, administration, health professional, teacher, farmer, etc.) DAPS and CAPS should impact their lives positively and help them become smarter, hyper-connected and more productive.

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Exponential Opportunities

We live in a very confusing world. The largest taxi services company doesn't own taxis. And the largest hospitality company in terms of market cap doesn't own hotels. The largest media company doesn't own media. And billions of people are becoming digital.   In both developed and Emerging Worlds, there is a great opportunity for game-changing innovations that will impact billions.

Saving Lives -> markets ->

In the 80’s and before, it was about saving lives through vaccination or mosquito nets and so on. Most recently, the obsession has been to exploit emerging worlds as emerging markets. But in a complex, fast-evolving and culturally diverse settings, we must work with local innovators and stakeholders.


For true transformation, A proven framework to deploy technology

SPOT Problems -

inventors and members of the innovation ecosystem generate an idea that addresses a need

PROBE Solutions -

teams around the world are taking part in focused workshops and camps to develop rough functioning proofs of concept

GROW Adoption -

innovation centers and partners combine their talents and skills to evolve the prototypes into more polished fully functioning devices


MIT Media Lab consortium members, multinationals and a network of global partners facilitate the successful deployment of the devices

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Digital tools are allowing self-learning and soon peer-to-peer learning. MIT and great institutions, however, are not just learning institutes and they inspire the young because they provide opportunities to invent and solve problems. We are passionate about creating a platform for peer-to-peer inventing and peer-to-peer solving.

The World is our Lab

The next 5B people who will be impacted with digital solutions are not in Cambridge. So we must invent in context and invent at scale. We need to spot challenges and probe solutions, by working with innovators and stakeholders at pilot sites worldwide.

Tolerate - Whine - Solve

Desh Deshpande says that the progress of a society depends on the ration of the type of people in that society.

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Bottom-Up Co-Innovation

Each location presents new challenges and new innovators. We hold conversations with citizens and government administrators. We recruit and select innovators with experience and skills in business, engineering, IT and design, as well as a passion for creating impact. And we build and strengthen relationships with industry, local government and academia. Universal themes are health, citizen empowerment, housing, transportation, food, agriculture, financial inclusion, energy, water, and education. The specifics can vary in each location, while the solutions should have broad applicability.

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Grand Challenges.  This July (2016) we will focus our efforts to brainstorm pressing challenges for the emerging worlds.

What is a grand challenge?

A grand challenge is a specific critical barrier that, if removed, would help solve an important problem, with a high likelihood of broad impact through widespread implementation. We are all encouraged to think as big as possible to have the greatest impact.


What is not a grand challenge?

Ideas that impact only a few people or that don’t impact people in a meaningful way are not grand challenges. Technology, methodology and solutions are not grand challenges.


What are examples of Grand Challenges?

How can we prevent blindness?

How can we use wearables for good?

How can every household be assigned a unique address?


What other organizations are doing work on Grand Challenges?

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The MacArthur Foundation



I want to learn more about Grand Challenges.  What should I read?


(1) Extreme Computational Imaging (DARPA "Wait, What?"), Ramesh Raskar, MIT Media Lab

(2) CPEU3 - Big Data, Sandy Pentland, MIT Media Lab

(3) #HBRLive: The Internet of Things, Privacy, and The New Deal on Data, Sandy Pentland, MIT Media Lab

(4) Brilliant designs to fit more people in every city, Kent Larson, MIT Media Lab

(5) Eric Ries: "The Lean Startup" | Talks at Google

(6) Lean Canvas Course, Ash Maurya

(7) Innovating for a Sustainable World, Jason Jay, MIT Sloan 2015

(8) Using Improvisation to Develop Leadership, Daena Giardella, MIT Sloan

(9) Upside: Anything is Possible, with Pashon Murray, MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow

(10) ghdLAB (Global Health Delivery Lab): In the world, for the world, Anjali Sastry, MIT Sloan

(11) Entrepreneurship 101: Who is your customer? Bill Aulet, MIT Sloan

Event Logistics

What is the focus of the India events?
We have built a platform that brings together technical experts, innovators, academic institutions, implementation collaborators and progressive corporate collaborators that will allow us to solve the most pressing challenges within India, and other developing countries. The focus is on finding solutions that help serve the "The Next 5 Billion" citizens by:

  • Identifying community specific challenges that may have solutions that could also be applied to multiple locations.
  • Providing mentorship, training and technical support from corporate collaborators, the MIT Media Lab, and other leading institutions to assist innovators creating novel technical solutions for rapidly emerging and pop-up cities.
  • Pairing innovators with implementation collaborators on the ground to ensure that each solution responds to real needs and enters the market with speed and scale. 


Smart Citizens before Smart Cities. What does that mean?

In developing countries, citizens are becoming digital well before cities are becoming smart. Thus our emphasis is on Smart Citizens, because these Smart Citizens will play a key role in defining Smart Cities. In the emerging world, learning takes place without schools, transactions proceed without a formal currency, companies build transportation solutions that don’t own the fleet, food is grown away from traditional farms and digital information democratizes participation in civic matters. The innovation sandbox focused on identifying, nurturing and launching key ideas with social impact. This will lead to corporate ventures, startup ventures or new research and insights.


How often does the team travel to India?

We travel biannually for workshops and at other times as well to give keynotes, meet with partners, and learn from innovators in the ecosystem.


How can I collaborate with your team? 

As our collaborator you will gain access to new markets and innovators, participate in the innovation process, be on the ground floor with new innovations, help commercialize and scale innovations, expand your global network, and perhaps even hire young innovators who can help transform your business.

Email to express your interest.


Where are you accepting applications?

Apply HERE to innovate at DISQ in Nashik 

Apply HERE to innovate eye health solutions in Hyderabad 

Apply HERE to innovate health tech in Mumbai 


How can I get involved?

Join our effort and help forge the future for the next 5 billion citizens.  We are seeking inspired Corporate Members, Mentors and Advisors, Innovators, Students and Volunteers!

Email for more information.


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Past Events

Past Events

APRIL 2017 - Emerging Worlds BOSTON

@MIT Media Lab


Leadership from Tata Consultancy Services - Update on projects at Digital Impact Square
Beth Zonis - Director of Partnerships and Programs for Emerging Worlds
Agnis Stibe - Social Engineer, Changing Places MIT Media Lab
David Ramsay - PhD Candidate, Responsive Environments MIT Media Lab
Nigel Jacob - Co-founder, Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics
Ramesh Raskar - Head of the Camera Culture Group MIT Media Lab

Watch full event presentations online:


January 2017 - Emerging Worlds in India

Delhi, Mumbai and Nashik

MIT scientists and collaborators are hosting workshops in January 2017 in India -- to SPOT problems and PROBE solutions with invited experts, scientists and change makers. We will explore billion dollar problems for citizens and communities in emerging worlds -- including farmers, merchants, women and crowds -- in several areas to improve billions of lives: 

  1. AI and the Data Revolution
  2. Imaging for Social Good
  3. Personal Identity and Low Cost Wearables
  4. Maps and Geo-centric Tech
  5. Machine Learning for Digital Health 

The team collaborated with FICCI to host a two day workshop at the India International Center.  The team also attended the Action for India Conference and met with government officials.  In Mumbai the team worked with the We School to host a full day brainstorming session with local collaborators and innovators from the ecosystem.  Finally, the team travelled to Nashik to meet with innovators at Digital Impact Square and to discuss how to move the ideas forward.



We welcomed guests form all over the world to our bi-annual meeting at the mIT Media Lab.  Presenters included Emerging Worlds Professors Ramesh Raskar, Sandy Pentland, Cesar Hidalgo, Iyad Rahwan and Kent Larson; Lit Nelsen on IP for Open Innovation; Collaborators from Tata Consultancy Services LV Prasad Eye institute and MedHacker Brazil; and Bill Aulet with a keynote on Becoming an entrepreneur.  In the afternoon we brainstormed grand challenges in four areas: Scaling -Data for development; Wearables, cameras and sensors for social good, empowering citizens for smart cities in emerging economies, and data and privacy - machine learning for health.  


The team visited Hyderabad, Mumbai and Nashik.  

Innovators gathered at LV Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad to focus on imaging the eye with vast implications for predictive health and health in the emerging world. Learn more HERE

We met with collaborators at the We School, Mumbai (Welingkar School of Management) to brainstorm pressing challenges to impact billions of lives. Learn more about past efforts and the Mumbai Innovation Center HERE.

We visited the newly opened innovation center, DISQ Digital Impact Square in Nashik, met with innovators, synced on current projects, and ran an in depth brainstorming session.  Learn more about DISQ HERE.  Propose a challenge or hypothesize a solution HERE

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In the News

In the News

Wall Street Journal India: India’s Kumbh Mela Is Used as an Incubator for Smart City Startup Ideas

By Krishna Pokharel | August 3, 2015


Next City/ Science of Cities: What a Massive Indian Festival Can Teach Us About Improving Cities

By Carlin Carr | March 31, 2015


The Guardian/ From Waze for Crowds to Uber for Street Food - MIT Innovations at Kumbh Mela

By Purvi Thacker | July 1, 2015

Kumbh Mela/ MIT BBC World TV

Mumbai Mirror: Kumbh 2.0

By Yolande D'Mello | January 4, 2015


Times of India: Filipino climate activist to raise awareness on renewable energy during Kumbh

By Himanshu Nitnaware | Aug 24, 2015


India Times: IIT, MIT, And Nokia - Everyone's Headed To #KumbhMela2015 To Test 6 Technologies That Can Benefit India

By John Sarkar | August 24, 2015


Telegraph: The Kumbh CRUCIBLE

By Bharathi S. Pradhan | August 23, 2015


Times of India: Kumbh 2015: Push Button Technology for safety to be implemented this week

By Aanchal Madan | Aug 18, 2015


India Today: Five apps that make Nashik’s Mahakumbh Mela a better experience: Technology can help seriously uplift your spiritual journey.

By Moeena Halim | July 24, 2015


Times of India: Tech route for Kumbh planning

By Himanshu Nitnaware | July 23, 2015


DNA (Daily News and Analysis): KumbhaThon: MIT team visits Nashik to help for Kumbhmela

By Vaishali Balajiwale | July 22, 2015


Daily Mail: QUANTUM LEAP: How tech can help devotees  

By Dinesh C Sharma | July 14, 2015


Times of India: Training of volunteers to start from 3rd week of July

By Santosh Sonawane | Jun 29, 2015


Times of India: Work on mobile apps for mela in the final leg

By Himanshu Nitnaware | June 29, 2015


Times of India: Tech touch to make Nashik's Kumbh Mela a success

By Himanshu Nitnaware | June 27, 2015


Knowledge Management World: The rise of the pop-up city

By Art Murray and Akash Shukla | May 28, 2015


DailyMail: Kumbh Mela goes hi-tech in Nashik with new 'crowd control' apps

By Ayesha Arvind | March 7, 2015


Times of India: No more goofing about, hackathons mean business

By Krithika Krishnamurthy | January 28, 2015


Sakal: Kumbhathon Up for Techno Savvy Kumbh Mela (मराठी मध्ये)

January 28, 2015


India Today: Kumbhathon to focus on tech

By Arya-Padte | January 25, 2015


Business Standard: Infy looks to dip in Kumbh as CEO promises to develop tech for event

January 15, 2015


Times of India: Tech route to a hassle-free Kumbh Mela

By Himanshu Nitnaware | Jul 21, 2014