Ever since the domestication of the horse in 3,000 BCE, human beings have been employing non-human beings and entities into doing human labour and tasks, and the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” is the latest – and arguably the most disruptive – manifestation of this phenomenon. Rapid advances in technology, automation, and artificial intelligence, along with the upcoming gig economy and fissured workplace, are fundamentally changing the nature of jobs and work.

With each passing day, robots are being trained to perform increasingly dexterous and challenging tasks; thus, the exact nature and extent to which this disruptive force will affect work and human lives at large remains unclear. However, it is certain that artificial intelligence will be a major disruptive force and adversely impact certain sections of society, at least in this transitional period. While reaping the benefits of these technological advancements, human beings need to be cognizant of the social and economic challenges that they pose and work to mitigate the damage caused by them.

The Challenge

This category challenges students to develop solutions to assist those who will be adversely affected and displaced by advancements in technology, automation, and artificial intelligence. To this end, students will be required to think about the issue critically and understand the exact nature of jobs that will be displaced. The matter at hand is to help these workers regain not only their lost income but also their purpose and direction in life.

Students are encouraged to combat issues deeper than the loss of jobs itself, which is merely one aspect of a multi-faceted issue. Issues of low-quality jobs, stagnant income, low wage work, and exploitation of workers, which – according to several scholars – will be spurred by technology and automation (two similar yet different concepts), must also be adequately addressed.

Examples of proposals that would fit into this track include (but are not limited to):

  • A network of educated volunteers to assist displaced truckers (and other similar workers) in financial planning for the remainder of their lives through evening classes in educational institutions.
  • Video based platforms that train – and retrain – healthcare professionals in new technology in the field and its use.
  • A novel job training and assistance program that supports populations that routinely face barriers to opportunity, such as youth, veterans, and refugees.
  • A web application that provides individuals with information and assistance to transition their benefits from job to job.
  • A digital intra-organization software that can be adopted by companies in order to allow workers to input information and play a role in job design.
  • A public policy solution that combats “short-termism” — the current concentration on short-term projects or objectives for immediate profit at the expense of long-term security.

Additional Resources


The “Workforce Development” track is open to all matriculated students across the 10-campus University of California system, as well all matriculated students from Makerere University and Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Multidisciplinary teams are strongly encouraged.   For additional information about general contest rules, timing and how to apply, please refer to the Contest Application Requirements.

Past Winners

Somo Project

Somo Project

Mak (UC Berkeley)

2. MÄk



More Winners

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