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APEC App Challenge 2023

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 APEC App Challenge logo


Application deadline:
19 May 2023, 23:45 (Pacific Standard Time)



How can we help MSMEs and other groups with untapped economic potential participate in global digitally-enabled trade and the international marketplace?


The internet and digital tools have created new opportunities to build a more inclusive global trade landscape. Digitally-enabled trade significantly reduces the cost of internationalization, allowing micro small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and traditionally underrepresented communities such as women, minorities, and other groups with untapped economic potential, such as Indigenous Peoples as appropriate, people with disabilities, and those from remote and rural communities, to connect with global customers and expand beyond their home markets.

In line with the 2023 APEC theme: “Creating a Resilient and Sustainable Future for All”—which focuses on the interconnected concepts of “resiliency,” “sustainability,” and “inclusivity”—this year’s APEC App Challenge aims to enable MSMEs and other groups with untapped economic potential to seize the unprecedented opportunity to participate in global digitally-enabled trade.


Building an online tool that promotes participation of MSMEs and other groups with untapped economic potential in global digitally-enabled trade and the international marketplace


App Challenge Website thumbnail

Digital tools and technology can mitigate trade barriers. By equipping small businesses with digital tools and knowledge, they can fully engage and benefit from digital trade.

There are more than 150 million MSMEs in APEC economies, representing around two-thirds of the total job market in the region. They typically contribute between 40 to 60 percent of APEC economies’ GDP.  Studies have shown that digital tools can reduce the cost of exporting for small businesses in the Asia-Pacific region by up to 82 percent and reduce the time taken in exporting by up to 29 percent. 

Small businesses in the APEC region show strong interest to export internationally.  Nevertheless, the opportunities remain significantly untapped, both in developing and developed countries.

This year’s APEC App Challenge calls on the region’s software developers to build an online tool, platform, mobile site or app that will help engage MSMEs and other groups with untapped economic potential participate and benefit in global digitally-enabled trade.

Solutions should aim to support micro and small businesses, particularly from the following groups: MSMEs, women, minorities, and other groups with untapped economic potential, such as Indigenous Peoples as appropriate, people with disabilities, and those from remote and rural communities.

Teams will be encouraged to develop their own ideas and creative solutions to the challenge with an emphasis on inclusive solutions.  The teams with the most compelling application will be encouraged to continue development of their solution through an-person pitching event in Seattle, Washington, USA in August 2023 (dates to be confirmed), with the winner of the finals to be announced at an APEC Ministerial Meeting in Seattle.


Eligible teams must be citizens and/or residents of APEC economies. Teams must consist of two to four individuals of the same economy. Two members of each finalist team are invited to participate in a finals event in Seattle in August 2023 (dates to be confirmed). The Asia Foundation will cover travel and hospitality expenses. The organizer will assist in the application of visas for travelling finalists, where required.

Finalists will retain full ownership of the products they create during the app challenge. However, under the terms of the challenge, APEC will have specified usage and branding rights.

Submitted applications will be evaluated based on their relevance and added value, technical competence, understanding of the target users and general problem areas, willingness and ability to take a product to market, and willingness to conduct independent user research and analysis.

Detailed rules and requirements are posted here:

  1. Registration deadline (19 May). Individuals interested in participating in this challenge should register here. In case you don’t have a teammate, former participants of previous editions of the App Challenge will help you to form a team with someone in your economy.
  2. Start the challenge (20 May). Registered teams will receive more detailed challenge statements as well as other informational resources to help them refine and implement their ideas.
  3. Submit final products (29 May). Teams will submit their final apps for judging on 29 May. In addition to sharing a link to a working web app or downloadable application file, teams must create a short (one to two minute) video demonstrating their newly completed products. The apps and videos will be reviewed by a panel of judges, who will select up to five teams to proceed to the selection and award session in June.
  4. Selection of finalists (9 June). Judges will announce the five finalist teams that will be entitled to participate in the pitching competition in August. Two members of the finalist teams will be invited to Seattle, Washington, USA, with all the travel costs covered.
  5. Pitching and prize ceremony (August, date to be announced). Finalist teams will demonstrate their newly completed products for a panel of judges and an audience that will include APEC policymakers up to the ministerial level, as well as entrepreneurs and development actors from around the region. Pitches will be made at the finals event in August 2023 in Seattle, with the winner to be announced at the APEC SME Ministerial Meeting in mid-late August.


Are flights and accommodation covered?

Yes, The Asia Foundation will provide round trip tickets between your city and Seattle, transfers from the airport to the event venue, and accommodation during the event.

Is there any technology restriction?

No, you can build with any technology that you’re familiar with. However, submissions that can rapidly deploy and scale up will be given greater consideration. For this reason, products that effectively integrate with or are built on top of popular e-commerce platforms and tools may be preferred over products that attempt to "reinvent the wheel."

Does my entry have to be a new tool?

Yes, you must build the tool (app, software, or website) starting from the time you are confirmed as participants in this APEC App Challenge, not before. You may build the tool on top of an existing, general platform or API, provided that your submission to the App Challenge provides novel and significantly different functionality than what is provided by the basic platform or API.

Are teams restricted to any specific number of participants?

Yes, teams must have two to four members, citizens or residents from the same economy.

Is this event restricted to developers and designers only?

If you wish, you may receive help from designers, marketers, or others while building your app. However, since this is ultimately a software development competition, successful teams will have enough engineering and design talent to ensure a high-quality final product, and not just a great pitch.

Do pitches have to be in English?

Yes, all pitches to the judges must be made in English.


Participants will demonstrate their work before a panel of expert judges. The top five teams will receive cash prizes of:

  • USD 5,000 for the first-place team
  • USD 3,000 for the second-place team
  • USD 2,000 for the third-place team
  • USD 1,000 for the fourth-place team
  • USD 1,000 for the fifth-place team

An official award ceremony may take place at an APEC Ministerial Meeting in Seattle, attended by economic ministers and international press corps.

Two members of the finalist teams will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Seattle for the pitching competition event. 



Questions may be sent to

[email protected]