Original article published on 10 November 2015 on Deal Street Asia. Written by . To read the original article, click here

Chris Fabian, Co-Lead of the UNICEF Innovation Unit introduces U-Report, a social messaging tool that enables communication between young people and decision makers. Having launched in May 2011 in Uganda, there are now over 1,7 million U-Reporters throughout 18 countries. Photo: UNICEF/2015/Käyhkö
Chris Fabian, Co-Lead of the UNICEF Innovation Unit introduces U-Report, a social messaging tool that enables communication between young people and decision makers. Having launched in May 2011 in Uganda, there are now over 1,7 million U-Reporters throughout 18 countries.
Photo: UNICEF/2015/Käyhkö

The UNICEF, with its $5.6-million Innovation Fund targeted at making venture investments in impactful startups, believes that new technologies are the driver for change for those who are the most vulnerable around the world.

UNICEF’s Global Innovation Centre and the Innovation Fund were launched in May this year, with a total funding of $9 million by that time. Founding members of the Innovation Fund, which currently holds $4 million, include The Walt Disney Company and the Government of Denmark. The Finnish government has also put in a sum of 1.5 million euro ($1.6 million) in the Innovation Fund.

“Technology and new ways of thinking can help us reach the most marginalised children faster and more efficiently than ever before,” said Yoka Brandt, UNICEF deputy executive director, addressing the “Startup to Scale Up” global summit on innovations for children and youth in Helsinki on November 9.

“The stuff that we’re talking about in this conference is not coming from the Silicon Valley. These are things that are built in innovation labs in South Sudan, Burundi, Chile and Indonesia,” added Chris Fabian, co-lead of UNICEF Innovation Unit, which is trying to support innovation teams in the same way that VCs support startups.

“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,” said Lenita Toivakka, Finnish Minister for Foreign Trade and Development.

During the two-day summit, which is organised in partnership with the annual startup conference SLUSH, participants will examine which opportunities from the technological and private sector can have the biggest impact on children over the next five years.

More studies are also placed on the emerging areas of social data; access to information through satellite infrastructure; wearables for personal health; games and behaviour change; the role of entertainment and media in scaling up innovations for children; learning in 2020 and beyond; and the future of jobs and job training.

From Southeast Asia, two Vietnamese delegations, including government officials and businesses, are currently present in Helsinki to learn the Finnish innovation system.

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