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UNICEF launches Innovation Fund

02 Feb 2016

UNICEF has announced the launch of an Innovation Fund that will enable Kiwi technology start-ups to help improve the lives of vulnerable children across the world. 

“The purpose of the UNICEF Innovation Fund is to invest in open source technologies for children,” explains Christopher Fabian, UNICEF Innovation co-lead.

“We’ll be identifying opportunities from countries around the world including some that may not see a lot of capital investment in technology start-ups,” he say. “We are hoping to identify communities of problem-solvers and help them develop simple solutions to some of the most pressing problems facing children.”

To qualify for funding, projects must be open source and have a working prototype, Fabian says. They can involve developing a new technology, or expanding or improving an already existing one.

UNICEF’s Innovation Fund, which has raised $9 million so far, offers innovators in developing countries a pooled funding mechanism to help them take their tested projects to the next stage. 

The fund focuses its investments on three portfolio areas:

  • Products for youth under 25 to address a range of needs including learning and youth participation
  • Real-time information for decision-making
  • Infrastructure to increase access to services and information, including connectivity, power, finance, sensors and transport.

“These three areas are ripe for investment due to rapidly changing technologies such as blockchain, 3D printing, wearables and sensors, artificial intelligence and renewable energy,” Fabian says.

Applications will be assessed according to a number of criteria including the strength of the team, the project’s relevance to children, and the ability to see potential future value in the open source intellectual property being created.

UNICEF Innovation has previously invested in technology solutions, such as RapidSMS, RapidPro and U-Report, which now reach millions of users.

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