Welcome to Zambia – one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. A country where more than 60% of the population is under 25. A UNICEF office that will host our newest innovation lab.
I am here with a team of really smart people (who will, no doubt, introduce themselves in their own blog posts soon) from Nairobi, Florence, and Lusaka itself. One of the strangest parts of this mission so far is that we are being filmed.
This is a moderately uncomfortable experience for me – particularly because it involves having to occasionally do the same thing over several times (“can you please go through that door again?”). So, while we go through our meetings, field visits, and learning we will also be capturing everything for others to watch.
Why is a film crew following our team around Zambia for a week?
“In Zambia, the government is interested in innovation, mobile phone penetration is enormous, and we have an amazing community of young entrepreneurs and innovators,” says Priscilla Chomba-Kinywa, who is leading the office’s Innovation efforts. We’re trying to understand some things that are happening in UNICEF Zambia that are pretty incredible in order to share them with the world.
We will be looking at three main (open source) projects over the next few days:
- Project Mwana: a system where doctors at central hospitals can send HIV test results by text message to rural areas, cutting the delay in getting those results in half.
- uReport Zambia: more than 44,000 young people all have access to free counseling services via text message – with trained counselors providing information instantly to even the most remote parts of the country.
- UNICEF’s newest Innovation Lab, which will be located in Lusaka – and the meetings with some young entrepreneurs and developers to scope that out.
Tomorrow we go to meet the doctors and technicians who are processing paper-based blood tests, and sending the information back via text message – the famous Project Mwana – and also get to spend some at Zambia’s newest startup incubator: the Bongo Hive.
*I stole this title from Rory, the film producer who is with us. It is an awesome title.
18 March, 2014