Originally published on UNICEF UK’s blog on 23 July, 2015. Written by Katherine Crisp. To view the original blog post, click here.

Village Muhammadpur, Block Babhulgaon, Dist. Yavatmal, Maharashtra, INDIA.Children play during their lunch break at The Zilla Parishad Primary School in Muhammadpur Village. The Right to Education Act, which was brought into effect in Maharashtra in 2010, guarantees the right to free and compulsory education for all children up to the age of 14 years. But it is not enough for a child to be enrolled in a school and present in a classroom if he/she is out-of-school in his/her mind and heart. UNICEF has teamed up with MPSP(Maharashtra Prathamik Shiksha Parishad)  to ensure that every child in Jalna, Wardha and Yavatmal is not only literate but educated, through the programme Let’s Make Our School Child-Friendly. A Child-Friendly School (CFS) is simply one that children want to come to and enjoy studying in. As part of the programme, UNICEF organises training workshops for school heads and teachers in the three districts and shares new ideas and techniques on making learning a more interactive experience, keeping children engaged without the stress of punishment and evaluations. UNICEF India/2013/Dhiraj Singh
UNICEF India/2013/Dhiraj Singh

Back in May 2015 we launched our ground-breaking partnership with ARM on the premise of accelerating the development of new technologies to overcome the barriers that prevent millions of families from accessing basic health, education and support services. A key part of this partnership over the last couple of months has been the Wearables for Good challenge, coordinated by Unicef, ARM and frog, which aims to generate ideas for new and innovative designs to make wearables and sensor technology a game-changer for women and children across the world.

The world needs new ways of solving problems if we are to overcome the inequities that prevent millions of children from surviving and realising their potential. Without innovation in technology, the hardest-to-reach children can’t receive the vital basic services they need to survive and flourish. For example, did you know that globally the births of nearly 230 million children under the age of five – representing around one in three children in that age group – go unregistered? Such intractable and seemingly insurmountable problems won’t be solved by continuing down the path of business as usual.

On 7 October, a boy with a hearing impairment wears a Solar Ear hearing aid in the eastern city of Mutare, capital of Manicaland Province. In October 2014 in Zimbabwe, an innovative technology, Solar Ear, is changing the lives of children who would otherwise miss out on education because of their hearing impairment. Solar Ear is the world’s first solar hearing-aid battery charger. The device, invented by Innovator Tendekayi Katsiga, Director of Operations at Deaftronics, was developed to meet the needs of communities that lack regular access to electricity. The Solar Ear battery charger lasts for 2–3 years and can be used with 80 per cent of hearing aids on the market today. It can be charged via sunlight, household light or a cellphone plug. The technology has spread to Brazil and Jordan, and the product is being sold in at least 40 countries in Africa – where 200 million people have a hearing impairment.
© UNICEF/NYHQ/O’Donoghue

But why wearables? Wearable technology has the potential to deliver life-enhancing and life-saving services. When designed specifically for the end-user, in a local context, wearable and sensor technology has the potential to revolutionise the way basic services are delivered to populations at the last mile.

But new solutions won’t necessarily come from Silicon Valley; every day people all over the world are developing ideas and solutions that work for their environment. That’s why the challenge is open to all and will also run according to Unicef Innovation’s design principles including using open standards, open source and open innovation.

The human imperative behind the challenge is a compelling one, but the business case for responding to it is strong as well. Business Insider estimates that the value of the wearables market will rise from $2.5 billion in 2014 to $12.6 billion by 2018 and smart wearable devices are predicted to generate $22.9 billion in revenue by 2020.

By changing the narrative of wearable technology from things that are nice to have to devices that people need to have is a key part of the Wearables for Good challenge. Mobile technology has already been used to great effect in international development and this challenge asks the question of whether wearable and sensor technology could do the same.

Enter the challenge

So far we’ve seen interest in Wearables for Good from all over the world with more than 800 registrations. With one week to go until entries for the challenge close, this is the chance to submit any ideas that you may have. New and innovative solutions to reach the world’s most vulnerable children can come from any corner of the world and the Wearables for Good challenge is open to anyone.

Entry is open until 4 August. Find our more about the Wearables for Good challenge and how to apply.

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© UNICEF/HIVA/Schermbrucker
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