Startup
Posted: 8 months ago

Zinc Network Announces Winner of the first Counter Disinformation Innovation Competition

Pulsar AI, Meta Mine, and wavetech.ai have won the first-ever Counter Disinformation Innovation Competition, a joint project of Zinc Network and Startup Grind Tbilisi. The competition, which was launched under the Georgian Information Integrity Program on June 29, sought to bring together tech specialists and startups to provide innovative technological solutions to disinformation problems.

The competition participants took on one of two challenges that were selected based on research conducted with Georgian organizations that track and monitor disinformation. The first was the difficult challenge of devising technological solutions to be able to monitor audio-visual content for disinformation and transform it into text data. These monitoring tools would allow journalists and researchers to find the information they need by using keywords. The system would significantly save researchers’ time and energy and is expected to become an effective mechanism for timely reaction to disinformation campaigns.

The second challenge called for the participants to create an aggregated database that collects open-source information (i.e from public registries, public tender websites, etc.). What would make this tool unique is its inclusion of a notification system that will allow its user to receive real-time messages regarding any changes in public information.

One of the winners, Luka Chketiani, technical director of wavetech.al, highlights that their software can play a significant role in combating disinformation.

“The clear set of objectives defined by the organizers helped us to develop problem-oriented solutions. Our Speech to Text platform will aid users in transcribing hundreds of hours of audio/video streams” says Chketiani.
The competition’s judging panel was comprised of senior USAID representatives, angel investors, artificial intelligence experts and cyber security professionals such as: Ana Avaliani - Director, Enterprise and Sustainable Development at Royal Academy of Engineering, Andrew Thornhill- Georgian Investor, Ihar Mahaniok - Angel Investor, Keti Bakradze, Democracy and Governance Team Leader, USAID, Maria Doliashvili - Maria Doliashvili, Machine Learning Engineer Microsoft, Irakli Gogatishvili - Head of AI lab, BOG.

The competition's finalists were selected based on three top criteria – the effectiveness of the product, its innovativeness, and the ability for the product to be sustainable in the long term. Out of five organizations that reached the final stage, three winners were found to meet the criteria best.

Giorgi Tukhashvili, Co-director of Startup Grind says that initially, it was intended to have two winners, one for each category. However, participants offered such high-quality and technologically diverse solutions that an additional winner was included.

"The winners offered different technological solutions for combating disinformation. For instance, some of them used NLP (Natural Language Processing) technology based on one of the dimensions of Artificial Intelligence. In contrast to English, there are no such tools for the Georgian language meaning that developed programs are unique,"- says Tukhiashvili.  

USAID, Zinc Network, and Startup Grind will provide the winning teams grant funding of USD 7,500 to bring their technological solutions to the pilot stage. If the tool is successfully implemented, they will have the possibility to raise their grant to USD 42,500 and attract additional investment from other sources.