UNICEF Futures looks at the two-to-five-year horizon to evaluate emerging and trending technologies to see how UNICEF can work with the private sector to find shared value in this future space – for companies to do better business while improving access to essential services for children. Future investment areas include: transportation and mobility; identity; learning; mobile financial services and digital currencies; and wearable and sensor technology.
While many of UNICEF’s achievements in implementing technologies at scale for positive social impact have focused on the public sector, there is tremendous opportunity to contribute to the corporate bottom line while delivering essential services for disadvantaged communities. UNICEF and our partners on the ground need innovative solutions to some of the key barriers we face – such as geographical remoteness of constituents, limited infrastructure, slow data collection and ensuring that the most vulnerable populations have access to critical information and services.
Wearables for Good
Through the Wearables for Good Challenge, UNICEF, ARM and frog, set out to demonstrate how wearable technology can be used to solve some of the most pressing challenges facing children. We put out a global call to action to developers, designers, community partners and problem-solvers to join us in this challenge. We attracted over 1,800 registrants from 65 countries, which resulted in 250 entries from 46 countries around the world.
Accompanied by a Use Case Handbook created by UNICEF and frog, the challenge invited the global design, technology, and business industries, as well as social communities and universities, to identify and develop solutions for areas where wearable devices can generate tremendous social good. Announced in November 2015, the two winners of the challenge – Khushi Baby and SoaPen – successfully demonstrated how wearable technology can address some of the fundamental challenges children face in the areas of immunization and water and sanitation, respectively.
Innovating for Children in an Urbanizing World
Cities are centers of the greatest human challenges and opportunities. Today, cities are home to over 55% of the global population and generate more than 80% of our global GDP. The fastest growing cities are in Asia and Africa, and these are largely untapped and growing markets. Many who move to cities are spending more, but still lack access to the basic services, infrastructure, information, opportunity, and choice required to survive and thrive in the age of urbanization. Amidst this unprecedented and transformational urbanization, there is a growing need to address emerging challenges and tap into new opportunities, especially as they relate to vulnerable children and youth.
Through the urbanization handbook, UNICEF in partnership with ARM seek to outline opportunities for design, technology, and social impact communities to work together in creating technological innovations that improve the lives of vulnerable children in cities. It highlights the urgent need for innovation on behalf of children in the context of a rapidly urbanising planet, and also offers guidance on specific approaches and principles–through the lens of UNICEF’s innovation priorities. The handbook identifies five focus areas where the most pressing challenges for children in urbanizing areas intersect with the greatest opportunities for technology- based solutions: Infrastructure, Transport, Basic Services, Connectivity, Violence and Hazards.