Innovating for Children and Young People.

AuthorFore, Henrietta H.
PositionUNICEF 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Innovation and the rise of digital technology have forever changed how we work, interact with one another, and create and share information. Innovative technologies are also changing how we, at the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), are supporting children and young people around the world.

Innovation has always been an important part of the story of UNICEF. Over the decades, our organization has supported a number of pioneering advances, including the scaling-up of oral rehydration salts, ready-to-use therapeutic foods like Plumpy'nut, and the India Mark II hand pump--the most widely used water hand pump in the world. But we must do more. We believe we will not reach many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) without a significant step change in our work. Innovation provides an opportunity to help make this leap and do what generations of UNICEF staff members have always done: apply new thinking to old problems.

The most successful innovations have come about by marrying partnerships, financing and the vast promise of technology to the needs of children and communities. For example, advances in digital technology helped us create RapidPro, a system intended to improve the quality, reach and feedback of vital health information. Using RapidPro, national partners are monitoring the immunization of millions of children in Indonesia, training health workers in Senegal, speeding up responses to breakdowns in water delivery for rural communities in Zimbabwe, and supporting Palestinian children with disabilities.

In a similar vein, the rapid rise of mobile phone technology over the last two decades has driven the creation of U-Report, which is helping us reach children and young people in the hardest-to-reach communities in new ways--and helping them reach us. U-Report is now being used by almost 6 million children and young people in over 50 countries to report on issues affecting them, such as violence, HIV prevention and reproductive health.

U-Report is also being used in our responses to humanitarian emergencies, including the Ebola outbreak, where it provided vital information to people on how to stay safe and where they could get help. It helped us issue safety instructions to more than 25,000 people in the Caribbean during Hurricane Irma in 2017, and spread the word about available cash transfers for families following the landslide in Sierra Leone that same year.

UNICEF is using new advances in geographic software and...

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