Written by: UNDP Mongolia's Accelerator Lab Team

Since he was in high-school Azjargal had a brilliant idea that he kept exploring even after graduating from the university.

His invention – pine nut-based bio-plastic technology – makes sustainable, biodegradable plastic from Siberian pine native to Mongolia. Four years ago, he decided that he would bring his idea to life and patent his idea.  But the process of getting his patent was so laborious and frustrating that he decided to do something about that. So, a few weeks ago he submitted his proposal to UNDP Accelerator Lab’s Digital Innovation Challenge and was selected as one of the 3 winners.

Azjargal’s winning idea is to digitize patent application submission and processing system at the Intellectual Property Office of Mongolia. He proposes to digitize the current paper-based application process to an online version. It took him 3 years to get his patent, and during the waiting period he was only able to get status reports via phone. His proposal to digitize the patent application process would not only save time and resources for the users and the agency, but it would also reduce the barriers to intellectual property registration and application in Mongolia. The ease of recognizing and protecting intellectual rights is essential for a healthy innovation ecosystem.

Submissions received for the UNDP Mongolia Accelerator Lab Digital Innovation Challenge indicate a growing interest among Mongolians to solve their own problems through innovation. The three winners have different ideas and come from different backgrounds, but they have one thing in common: to take steps to address issues that they all personally had experienced and felt challenged by.

The two other winners included – Tsolmonbayar and Nandin-Erdene. Tsolmonbayar submitted a proposal on behalf of Khangal Systems – a small IT company – to introduce a household health platform that enables better medical care. The 2-way platform would benefit users via 3 main components: gathering and centralizing household health information for preventative medical care, connecting citizens with their preferred doctor, and using an artificial intelligence (AI) program to supplement medical diagnosis.

When Tsolmonbayar became the head of his Homeowners’ Association four years ago, he realized there were many business and data management issues in the way these organizations work. So, he and his team developed an application called Smart Mongol, that allow households to access better services from their Homeowners’ Associations.

A recent master’s graduate from Science and Technology University of Mongolia, Nandin-Erdene is a data enthusiast who was inspired by her own experience of dealing with public services.

In 2020, she made a complaint to the government’s 11-11 service, a centralized platform for public engagement. To her frustration, the request took three days to be assigned to the relevant authority.  This process was entirely manual at the time. She saw this as an opportunity and developed an AI program that immediately assigns and categorizes public complaints to save time and resources, using a 5-year database that 11-11 posted on Kaggle platform. With her program, public complaints and messages would be immediately categorized and assigned.

There is a great potential to AI and other technology in learning and management of government data. 

Innovation is often discussed in the context of world leading institutes and developed countries, but there is so much to learn from vibrant communities in countries like Mongolia. Since grassroots solutions are often derived from real life experiences and challenges, and refined through multiple iterations and experiments, they are uniquely positioned to solve local issues with local resources. We are excited to share these three proposals, and UNDP Mongolia Accelerator Lab will keep on exploring ideas and help bring them to life to make our lives better.

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