UNICEF has announced an initiative that aims to invest in open source technologies for children. The UNICEF Innovation Fund has raised $9 million so far and offers innovators in developing countries a pooled funding mechanism to help take projects in selected portfolio areas to the next stage.
Likening the funding mechanisms to a venture capitalist way of doing things, UNICEF’s award-winning Innovation unit is looking to support the generation of open source, public goods that address the most pressing challenges that children face. This will also allow UNICEF to quickly access, fund and scale open-source solutions in new and emerging markets created by private sectors.
Projects that receive funding need to be early stage, with a prototype or pilot completed and is proven to work to other people. The projects can involve developing new technologies, expanding on new technologies or even scaling existing technologies to new countries/areas. The portfolio areas will need to increase the ability of children to access information and to increase opportunity and choice.
These are the three main portfolio areas:
1. Products for Youth under 25
This will address a range of needs, including learning and encouraging youth participation. Emerging technologies will help youth to overcome barriers that prevent them from accessing services and information.
2. Real-time Information for Decision Making
The aim of this portfolio is to allow situations of the most vulnerable to be understood by those who have the ability to address their circumstance. Real data can also be used to identify where disparities are greatest and real-time information will strengthen systems, hence improving monitoring, transparency and accountability.
3. Infrastructure to increase access to services and information
Access to basic, life-enhancing information is a human right and innovations that build and strengthen infrastructures to increase access to services and information will hold great promise to address existing challenges that negatively impact children.
UNICEF has chosen these three portfolio areas due to a ripened opportunity for investment and rapidly changing technologies such as blockchains, UAVs, 3D printing and many more.