Commonwealth Digital Challenge: Judging panel named

Thomson Foundation announces an exceptional judging panel for the  Commonwealth Digital Challenge 2019: Media Tech Accelerator.

The three judges are Kate Adams, director of operations and special projects for Nesta Challenges (Nesta – the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts); Sarah Drinkwater, director at the Tech and Society Solutions Lab at Omidyar Network and Arshia Gratiot, founder and CEO of Third Space Auto Ltd.

The three combine to create a judging panel deeply knowledgeable and experienced in innovation, the potential of technology to create a better and more open society and in developing young talent. They are an ideal panel to judge and mentor entrants to a challenge aimed at helping young, aspiring and tech-savvy journalists, media managers and entrepreneurs. 

The Commonwealth Digital Challenge: Media Tech Accelerator (part of the Elizabeth R Media Fund) asks competition entrants 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. Those shortlisted can then develop their ideas with the help of the Thomson Foundation team and its expert internal and external judges.

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.

The judges

Sarah Drinkwater: Sarah is director at the Tech and Society Solutions Lab at Omidyar Network, where she works to test and scale interventions that help maximise the tech industry's positive contributions to a healthy society. 

Prior to Omidyar Network, Sarah was head of Campus London, Google's first physical startup hub offering innovative education programmes, a work and event space, and access to a vibrant startup community. Campus London was a pilot that has since scaled to six locations around the world, including Seoul and Sao Paulo. At Google, Sarah also built and led a global Google Maps community team.

Sarah previously worked in community and content roles for early-stage startups in Europe. She also advised brands such as Nokia on their social strategy and was a journalist for newspapers and magazines, including The Guardian. 



Kate Adams:

Kate's career has spanned the private and not-for-profit sector. Her last decade has been dedicated to growing and professionalising organisations on a mission to create social good. In recent years, she's focused on how we harness the new opportunities presented by technology to solve societal challenges.

Kate is currently the director of operations and special projects for Nesta Challenges, who aim to inspire innovators through the Challenge Prize method to solve some of the world’s most pressing societal problems. Prior to working at Nesta, Kate was chief of staff to the CEO at Comic Relief leading on strategy, change management, special projects and government partnerships. She is chair of the trustee board at national charity, Missing People and a non-executive director at the British Paralympics Association.

Kate started her career in management consultancy and has a human resources background building high performing workforces. She’s passionate about enabling people to fulfil their potential and thrive, regardless of background or situation.



Arshia Gratiot:

Arshia is the founder and CEO of Third Space Auto Ltd. with offices in London, Bangalore and Helsinki. Third Space Auto is an SME creating AI systems in the drones and robotics space. Arshia is an experienced technology professional who has worked in the mobile and IT space with Nokia and Microsoft over the last 10 years. She has worked in wide variety of roles focused on developing AI for responsive systems.

Arshia is a member of a number of EU-wide initiatives focused on emerging mobility systems including the recently formed Urban Air Mobility consortium and the European AI Alliance. She is a frequent speaker on topics involving AI and ethics, human-centric intelligent systems and the experience of being a non-technical founder creating deep tech start-ups. Arshia is an avid supporter of women in technology and evangelises the importance of encouraging girls to enter the STEAM stream where arts also play a significant role. 



Untapped talent

“We are delighted to be able to announce such a dynamic, skilled and committed judging trio. The competition aims to inspire, and help, young innovators and entrepreneurs to find new ways of improving media through the use of technology. We hope to support the large pool of untapped talent from across the Commonwealth and I know that Arshia, Kate and Sarah will not only be able to identify that talent but also help them achieve their potential. I know competitors will relish the opportunity of being mentored by them and developing their ideas with the judges and the Thomson Foundation team.”

– Nigel Baker, CEO, Thomson Foundation 

The Elizabeth R Media Fund

The fund is a re-branding for the Elizabeth R Broadcasting Fund which was set up in 1995 to assist the development of broadcasting skills in the Commonwealth. It was established with a donation from Buckingham Palace out of royalties from “Elizabeth R”, the 1992 BBC documentary which marked the 40thanniversary of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.

The competition

Commonwealth Digital Challenge entrants have been 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. The statement should be an outline of the mobile application or digital solution that both details the proposal and identifies its practical usage. 

Six shortlisted individuals/groups will be invited to present a webinar of their proposal to Thomson Foundation and its 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

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

The finalists will then 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. 

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.



Competition deadline

Applicants must submit their initial entries by midnight GMT on Friday, May 17th, 2019.



How to enter

Applicants to the Commonwealth Digital Challenge must be citizens of a Commonwealth member country, excluding the UK. See the Competitions section for full terms. 


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