Original article published on 9 November 2015 on Digital Trends. Written by Lulu Chang. To read the original article, click here


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It’s cold right now in Helsinki, but it’s about to get a lot cooler. Cheesy jokes aside, UNICEF and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland’s Start-up to Scale-up: Global Innovations for Children and Youth Summit, being held on November 9 and 10 in the country’s capital, is a truly remarkable enterprise, marking two days of dedicated efforts operating around “the theme of accelerating progress for the world’s most disadvantaged children and youth” by making use of technology.

According to a joint press release, the Helsinki Innovation Summit will bring together “over 500 leading thinkers from the technological, academic, corporate, development, and humanitarian world, who will be applying their considerable and varied expertise to “unlock the way new technologies can drive change for the world’s most vulnerable children.” And because the Summit will coincide with Slush, an annual start-up and technology conference known for attracting entrepreneurs and investors from around the world, there will be no shortage of cooks in this very interesting kitchen.

“Technology and new ways of thinking can help us reach the most marginalized children faster and more efficiently than ever before,” said Yoka Brandt, UNICEF’s deputy executive director. “Sharing innovations with children and making them part of the solution can help us turn cycles of poverty into cycles of prosperity and progress, not just for them but for their communities and nations.”

While children in countries like the United States are practically born with smartphones in their hands, the same is clearly not the case for the progeny in some other areas of the world. In order to scale innovation, something more needs to be done, UNICEF believes.

The goals of the summit are simple: First, it aims to “raise awareness of the potential impact innovations can have on improving children’s lives and realizing their rights,” and further, to “create new partnerships to advance and scale up innovative solutions for children.” The summit also hopes to “activate support from partners to help amplify proven, high-impact innovations for children worldwide,” and finally, to “develop new localized innovations that will help lift children out of poverty.” 

Given Finland’s reputation for forward-thinking and technological innovation, Lenita Toivakka, the Finnish minister for foreign trade and development, notes that the country seems like the perfect backdrop for this first-ever event. “Finland is repeatedly listed as one of the world’s most innovative economies,” she said. “We strongly believe that in order to find solutions to the pressing problems children are facing and to implement the global sustainable development agenda we need new ways of thinking and doing development cooperation, increased investments in innovation, and maybe most importantly, improved commitment to partnerships in doing so.”

The 500 participants of the summit will be looking into the various opportunities that the tech and private sector may present that could have the biggest positive effect on children in the near future, and will also be tackling the issue of connectivity — how it can help with emergencies, how it impacts learning, and other topics along the same vein. 

Further, experts plan on delving deeper into newer areas of tech, including “social data; access to information through satellite infrastructure; wearables for personal and planetary health; games and behavior change; the role of entertainment and media in scaling up innovations for children,” and what the future of learning, jobs, and jobs training may look like.

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