“Prudence Foundation, the community investment arm of Prudential in Asia and Africa, together with Humanitarian Partner International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and Technology Partner Lenovo, have announced the winners of the 2021 SAFE STEPS Disaster Tech (D-Tech) Awards. The Awards recognise the essential role that technology plays in protecting and saving lives before, during and after natural disaster events.
Singapore-based EcoWorth Tech and the Stimson Center from the United States are the winners of this year’s Awards. They were selected from among close to 60 entries around the world, and form part of eight finalists that took part in a virtual live pitch to a judging panel.
Mr Donald Kanak, Chairman of Prudence Foundation, said Prudence Foundation has been focusing on disaster preparedness and relief since 2011.
Asia is the world’s most disaster-affected region. More than 50 per cent of global natural disasters took place in Asia, including China, India, Indonesia and the Philippines.
“The SAFE STEPS D-Tech Awards is a natural extension of our work to help communities recover from natural disasters through scalable, preventative technology solutions that can protect and save lives.
“We believe D-Tech should be front of mind for innovators, venture capitalists and businesses. The Awards serve as a platform to bring their knowledge, capabilities and investments to support D-Tech innovation and make the world a safer place,” said Mr Kanak.
EcoWorth Tech is awarded the first prize in the for-profit category. The company’s Carbon Fibre Aerogel (CFA) sponge, made of low-cost natural materials such as waste biomass, renewable cotton or wastepaper, is capable of cleaning waters following an oil spill. EcoWorth Tech’s reusable, environmentally-friendly CFA sponge can absorb oil of up to 190 times its own weight, mitigating the environmental impact of polluting industries.
“The SAFE STEPS D-Tech Awards provided a launchpad for us to meet like-minded innovators and environmentalists around the world. We will use the grant to further develop and deploy our solution, conduct more real-environment testing and encourage upcycling,” said Mr Andre Stolz, Co-Founder and CEO of EcoWorth Tech.
The Stimson Center is the winner of the non-profit category. Its Mekong Dam Monitor is a satellite imagery solution that leverages remote sensing data to monitor water levels in dams to help communities prepare in advance of flooding events or water supply disruption caused by upstream dam operations.
“Participating in the SAFE STEPS D-Tech Awards has been a very rewarding experience for our team. We had ample opportunities to meet with expert coaches who helped us sharpen our strategies and brainstorm new ways to scale and evolve our solution. We plan to use the grant to localise our services and language interfaces for use across Southeast Asia,” said Mr Brian Eyler, Director of Southeast Asia Programme at the Stimson Center and co-lead for the Mekong Dam Monitor.
Building resilience against disasters in the region has never been more critical, as COVID-19 has highlighted the growing vulnerability of people and communities to disasters. The pandemic has infected over 37 million people in Asia and is expected to cause US$2.7 trillion in economic losses.
Mr Alexander Matheou, Asia Pacific Director, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said, “We commend all the finalists and winners who have come up with such important innovative solutions at a time where we face unprecedented environmental challenges and threats due to climate change. We are delighted to work with the SAFE STEPS D-Tech Awards to foster a safer world as we face ever more dangerous disasters in Asia, the most disaster-prone region in the world.”
“D-Tech solutions have become critically important to strengthening disaster response,” said Mr Sumir Bhatia, President of Infrastructure Solutions Group at Lenovo Asia Pacific. “As such, it is of great urgency that technology companies, such as Lenovo, leverage their world-class technologies to collaborate with local entrepreneurs and NGOs to develop tailored solutions that can achieve better natural disaster preparedness, recovery, and resilience. The focus needs to be on collaboration, how we can effectively utilise the power of technology for the betterment of all.”
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