UGANDA, 2011. Boys view information at a UNICEF solar-powered Digital Drum computer kiosk at Bosco Youth Centre in the northern district of Gulu. © UNICEF/NYHQ2011-2053CROP/YANNICK TYLLE
UGANDA, 2011. Boys view information at a UNICEF solar-powered Digital Drum computer kiosk at Bosco Youth Centre in the northern district of Gulu. © UNICEF/NYHQ2011-2053CROP/YANNICK TYLLE

On February 28, 2014, Uganda hosted their Equity ACTIVATE event, the first in a series of activities that kick-started international public discussions on the role of innovations in addressing the rights of the child. Ideas and themes from these events will be brought together to form this year’s State of the World’s Children report. New Vision, Uganda’s leading daily, interviewed Jaya Murthy, UNICEF Uganda’s Chief of Communication, on the critical place of innovation in protecting the rights of the child.

UNICEF is convening a series of events in different countries to chart solutions needed in championing children’s rights within the local communities. What is the major focus of these events?

“The focus of these events is to explore new innovative solutions to children rights issues. Uganda will host the first of 10 events aimed at addressing challenges in our campaign to realise children’s rights.

The themes and ideas from these events will be brought together into a multimedia platform that will form a new, digital State of the World’s Children report, which will be launched at a high level event on the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child on November 20, 2014, in New York.”

Why is Uganda leading the way in hosting the inaugural event?

“Uganda provides a good experience of using new media platforms to address children’s rights issues. As UNICEF Uganda, we have been working closely with the Government and partners to develop and implement innovative solutions to keep children alive, safe and learning.

We do this through a number of technologybased platforms such as; birth registration using mobile phones, the digital kiosk platform through the use of solar powered computers in different centres in the country, mTRAC which involves using Short Messaging Service (SMS) facilities to track the health facility stock of essential medicines like the antimalarials, U-report, a free SMS service designed to voice young people’s concerns, eduTRAC that helps to monitor the quality and safety of schools using SMS; among others.

These innovations use widely available technologies like basic mobile phones and text messaging service. The results for these innovations have been great. Birth registration has for instance risen from 30% two years ago to 48% now. Digital kiosks have scaled up access to information. There are 257,000 U- Reporters.

Over 500 schools are benefitting from eduTRAC. Over 20,000 health workers are using Mtrac. I think the global UNICEF thought that Uganda with all the work and innovations that have been undertaken deserves to showcase the potential of innovation in championing child rights.”

What is the inspiration behind this drive for innovation?

“We realise that as the world is increasingly getting interconnected, we need to embrace the times; to tap into the new innovations to find solutions to local issues.

We realise how these new innovative solutions can tangibly change children’s lives. In addition to this, there are many issues affecting children that call for ways of handling. Such issues are inequalities in access to rights between different countries and even within countries. If we are to narrow these inequalities, we need to pay attention to the new circumstances under which they are happening; This calls for high level innovation and networking.”

See the full interview on New Vision, Uganda’s leading daily, here

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School monitoring system, EduTrac

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