UNICEF Seeks World-Changing Open Source Technologies

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United Nations to fund startups to develop open source tech to improve the lives of vulnerable children and civilians

Startups have until February 26 to submit their tech ideas to an United Nations agency, in order to gain access to venture capital style funding.

The caveats are that the technology has to be open source, and the product has to focus on ways to improve the lives of children, and other beneficial civic-minded ideals.

UN Fund

The fund is handled by the innovation division belonging to UNICEF, the UN agency focused on improving the lives of vulnerable children around the world.

Earlier this month it announced the creation of the UNICEF Innovation Fund. The aim of the fund is “to invest in open source technologies for children.”

larry page googleSo far it seems that the Fund has raised $9m in total from a number of sources, reportedly including the Finnish and Danish governments, as well as the Walt Disney Company Foundation and the Page Family Foundation (Google’s Larry Page).

“The purpose of the UNICEF Innovation Fund is to invest in open source technologies for children,” said Christopher Fabian, UNICEF Innovation co-lead. “We’ll be identifying opportunities from countries around the world including some that may not see a lot of capital investment in technology start-ups. We are hoping to identify communities of problem-solvers and help them develop simple solutions to some of the most pressing problems facing children.”

The fund is targeting UNICEF Innovation’s three core areas, namely products for young people under 25 that can address a range of needs including learning and youth participation.

“Emerging technologies can help overcome barriers that prevent young people from accessing information and services,” the fund said. “The ability for young people to connect to each other and counsel each other also allows them to share and scale their own solutions.”

The second focus area is on real-time information for decision-making, which allows aid agencies to rapidly understand a changing situation on the ground. “Real-time data can help identify where disparities are greatest, who is being reached, who is not using essential services, and why this is the case.”

The third focus area is on infrastructure in order to better improve access to services such as connectivity, power finance, sensors and transport.

“These three areas are ripe for investment due to rapidly changing technologies such as blockchain, 3D printing, wearables and sensors, artificial intelligence and renewable energy,” said Fabian.

Qualifying Criteria

It seems that applications will be assessed according to a number of criteria including the strength of the team, the project’s relevance to children, and the ability to see potential future value in the open source intellectual property being created..

Applicants have until 26 February to submit their proposals.

According to Wired, the money will be shared between 50 to 60 startups using open-source technology, and they have to have working prototypes.

Each successful applicant will get approximately $50,000 (£34,590) to help them grow.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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