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APEC App Challenge Unveils Winners: Transforming the Digital Landscape for Small Business Owners

APEC Secretariat Singapore | 31 August 2023

2023 APEC App Challenge winner

The culmination of months of creativity, collaboration and cutting-edge development has resulted in the selection of winners for the highly anticipated 2023 APEC App Challenge. 

The APEC App Challenge—established seven years ago to foster innovation and tackle economic priorities through the use of technology—has produced a lineup of outstanding applications that promise to help small business owners and groups with untapped economic potential participate and benefit in the global, digital marketplace.

The competition, open to individuals and teams from 21 APEC member economies, sparked an overwhelming response from the tech community in the Asia-Pacific region. This year's APEC App Challenge set a record since its first edition in 2017 in both the number of applications received and the economies represented, reflecting the growing enthusiasm and global participation in the event. Coders, developers, and designers converged in a virtual competition to address diverse trade challenges ranging from access to financing to determining requirements for insurance to product certification.

This year, the app challenge focuses on the 2023 US APEC theme of Creating a Resilient and Sustainable Future for All, which emphasizes the interconnected concepts of resiliency, sustainability and inclusivity.

Watch: The 2023 APEC App Challenge

“Our US host year theme seeks to advance an interconnected, innovative, and inclusive Asia-Pacific,” said Ambassador Matt Murray, US Senior Official for APEC. “It’s been an amazing opportunity to hear from these young developers as they propose solutions on how micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) can use technology to access new business opportunities and solve the critical problems they face.”

The digital solution submissions demonstrated unparalleled creativity, technical expertise, and a deep understanding of user needs, resulting in applications that have the potential to revolutionize the digital landscape for MSMEs.

“The APEC App Challenge is an opportunity for our youth to showcase how a digital tool can support MSMEs as they look to expand and grow their business regionally and internationally.” said Dr Rebecca Sta Maria, Executive Director of APEC Secretariat. “Given the emphasis that we are placing this year on digitalization and the digital economy, it really aligns well with our priorities and more importantly, to see how the use of technology works for our MSMEs.”

After a rigorous pitching exercise on 19 August, Toucan, a team from the United States, emerged as the winner of the 2023 APEC App Challenge. This cutting-edge application stood out for its seamless integration of artificial intelligence and unique concept of assisting small business owners and individuals with visual impairments and cognitive disabilities to access relevant and specific information on affordable exporting logistics. Through a chatbot-like interface that accepts both typed and voice commands in more than 130 languages, users can receive comprehensive text or voice-based analysis and information tailored to their needs.

“AI has been getting a lot of attention in the past year. We thought that since it’s a new technology, how can we turn it into something, to create new experiences, and what can be possible for small business owners to use,” said Zhuyuan He, co-creator of Toucan.

ExportPro, a team from China, secured second place. ExportPro is an app that features machine learning technology that helps users quickly and accurately match their export products with the appropriate customs tariffs and other relevant information in one consolidated place. 

Taking the third-place spot is Emerge, a team from the Philippines that conceived an app that provides an export readiness assessment tool, MSMEs public global directory, smart search, an exporting document requirements database, and an ‘inclusion category’ feature.

The winners were honored at the awards ceremony that took place on 21 August in Seattle as part of the APEC Small and Medium Enterprises Ministerial Meeting. The event brought together economic ministers, APEC officials, delegates, and participants from the challenge to celebrate the remarkable achievements of these talented developers. Following the announcement, the winners had the opportunity to present their apps to Small and Medium Enterprises Ministers during the ministers’ plenary session.

In addition to winning cash prizes, winners will also receive mentorship opportunities through Digital Makers Asia-Pacific, the APEC App Challenge alumni community. These rewards are designed to support the winners in further refining and scaling their applications, ultimately ensuring that their innovative solutions reach a wider audience.

The APEC App Challenge is a joint initiative of 2023 APEC United States and the APEC Secretariat, with support from The Asia Foundation and Google.


For further details, please contact:

Rechelle Tangcangco at [email protected] 
Masyitha Baziad +65 9751 2146 at [email protected]

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