Commonwealth Digital Challenge 2019: Media Tech Accelerator 

The Elizabeth R Media Fund’s Commonwealth Digital Challenge for 2019 is now closed. 

For notification and updates on next year's competition, plus this year's finalists and winner, sign up to our newsletter.

The challenge, run by Thomson Foundation, is an annual competition aimed at helping young, aspiring and tech-savvy entrepreneurs from the Commonwealth to develop an app, digital idea or tool to improve the work of, or solve challenges encountered by, journalists, communicators and media organisations within the Commonwealth.

The challenge is open to individuals or teams of no more than three, all candidates must be aged between 18-30 on May 17, 2019, when entries close.

Entrants will be asked to submit a 500-word statement with illustrations. These illustrations can be any one of a six-slide PowerPoint (or similar) presentation, a two-minute audio file or a two-minute video file. This statement should be an outline of the mobile application or digital solution that both details the proposal and identifies its practical usage. 

Application form here

We hope the competition will inspire, and help, young innovators and entrepreneurs to find new ways of improving media through the use of technology.

Nigel Baker, CEO, Thomson Foundation


Competition rules and stages

Stage one: Launch

Entrants will be asked to submit a 500-word statement, in English, outlining an editorial or technical issue facing journalists and media organisations within the Commonwealth, together with a potential case for how it can be addressed using a mobile application or digital solution that they intend to develop. The statement should be supported by ONE of the following:

  • A PowerPoint (or similar) presentation of up to six slides
  • An audio file of up to five minutes in length
  • A video file of up to five minutes in length

Applicants will be asked to upload their video, audio or presentation slides to a file-sharing platform (e.g. Dropbox, Google Drive), which will be accessible to the judging panel via a single URL link.

Stage two: First judging

The judging panel will include Thomson Foundation managers, media organisations and representatives from tech organisations and universities. The initial longlist from the original entries will be selected by Thomson Foundation in conjunction with the judges, who will then choose six shortlisted applicants to go through to the next stage of the competition.

The six participating groups/individuals will be invited to present a webinar of their proposal to Thomson Foundation and its Commonwealth-wide independent judging panel. This will include a detailed Q&A session. 

The most successful three, in the opinion of the judges, will receive support and online mentoring over a four-month period

Stage three: Development

The development period, which includes virtual mentoring, will take place from 3 June to 27 September, 2019. 

During this period there will be a number of mentoring sessions. Mentoring will depend on the relevance to the groups, but may include:

  • Development
  • Process
  • Finance
  • Pitching
  • Technical expertise
  • Business skills 
  • Funding

The mentoring will also include free access to the Social Media Strategy course from Thomson Foundation's Journalism Now e-learning programme.

All three competitors/competing groups will be invited to present the progress of their ideas in the last week of September, during the final stage of mentoring, and to a panel of leading industry experts. 

Stage four: Winner

The winning individual or group will be invited to the UK in November, all-expenses paid, and will be given help to develop their mobile application or digital tool.

Application form available here. 


Entry criteria

  • Applicants must be citizens of a Commonwealth member country, excluding the UK.
  • The competition is open to anyone aged between 18 and 30 at the time of the competition deadline, which is 17 May, 2019.
  • The competition organisers may request documentation to verify an entrant’s age.
  • The competition is open to individuals and groups of up to three people.
  • All submissions and presentations to be undertaken in the English language.

  • First judging will take place in the week starting 22 May, 2019 and applicants must be available for a webinar presentation during that week.
  • The three groups/individuals chosen to take part in the four-month mentoring must be able to travel to the UK in November 2019, should they be the eventual winners.
  • The timing of virtual mentoring sessions will be scheduled wherever possible at the convenience of all participants but ultimately will be dependent on the availability of the mentor.
  • The overall winner will be required in the UK in November. If travel during this time is not possible, the prize will go to the second most successful applicant or group.






About the Elizabeth R Media Fund

It was originally established as The Elizabeth R Broadcasting Fund in 1995 to assist the development of broadcasting skills in the Commonwealth with a donation from Buckingham Palace. The donation came from royalties from “Elizabeth R”, the 1992 BBC documentary which marked the 40th anniversary of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.

The Fund has fulfilled an important role for more than 20 years, bringing together Commonwealth broadcasters via a programme of travel bursaries and training opportunities.

However, the media landscape has changed greatly since that ground-breaking Elizabeth R documentary and the Fund is now developing to meet the challenges of the media’s digital age.

Thomson Foundation has been charged with re-branding and re-launching the Fund.

It is a fitting choice as the foundation has, for over 55 years, helped raise standards of journalism and communications across the world and has trained journalists and media managers from every Commonwealth country.



Help and questions

For any queries on the Commonwealth Digital Challenge, please email: For an update on the progress of last year's winner, John Otunga, click here. 

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