​Optus Future Makers program to help disadvantaged youths

Optus' newly launched Future Makers program plans to fund technology-focused ideas that will help address areas of youth employability, education, cyber education and safety, and wellbeing.

Optus has launched its own technology accelerator program to support ideas from entrepreneurs, social enterprises, and not-for-profit organisations that will help address challenges faced by young, disadvantaged Australians.

According to Optus, its Future Makers program will foster ideas focused on technology that address one of four criteria: Employability, education, cyber education and safety, or wellbeing.

Optus said it will shortlist 12 candidates for the accelerator program, and give them access to industry mentors and networking opportunities to aid them in the development of their pitch before presenting to a selected panel of experts.

Six winners will be selected following the pitch to receive up to AU$50,000 each in funding to use within six months of winning for the sole purpose of developing their idea.

Helen Maisano, associate director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Optus, said a key focus for the company is to invest in digital innovations that will help build a better future for Australia's youths.

"As the technological landscape continues to shift and evolve, it's essential that we provide support to those working hard to make a real difference in this area," she said.

"Optus' Future Makers program is a significant step towards enabling Australia's innovative minds to make a positive social impact through the use of technology solutions. We're mainly looking for game changers with ideas and systems that are almost ready to go."

Optus launched startup seed-funding company Innov8 in 2012, which offers funding to startups and collaborates with co-working spaces Fishburners in Sydney, and York Butter Factory, Melbourne, as well as accelerators such as Pollenizer and BlueChilli.

Last September, Optus partnered with Sydney-based fintech startup hub Stone & Chalk to boost fintech innovation within Australia. As part of the partnership, Optus provides IT services, Wi-Fi connectivity, and managed security to the non-profit hub.

Similarly, rival Telstra has outlined plans in the past to boost innovation and produce advancements in technology by investing in and collaborating with startups, machine-to-machine (M2M) technology, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Telstra also opened its Gurrowa Innovation Lab, which provides a co-creation space for its enterprise customers, vendors, research institutes, and incubators to collaborate on projects via the Pivotal and Cloud Foundry Foundation-provided open-source platform-as-a-service cloud software.

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