Never has there been a better time to use technology for good. On Monday, UNICEF announced the inception of its Innovation Fund, the purpose of which will be to invest in open source technology startups. Targeted at young companies seeking to improve the lives of children across the world, the UNICEF Innovation Fund has already raised $9 million that will be used to assist innovators in developing countries a pool of financial resources that will help them take their projects to the next level.
“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 startups.”
Companies with open source projects that already have a working prototype qualify for UNICEF funding, and the United Nations program is focusing particularly on three key areas: products for youth ages 25 and under that address learning and youth participation needs; real-time information and decision-making; and infrastructure that would increase access to services and information, which can include everything from finance to transportation.
“We are hoping to identify communities of problem-solvers and help them develop simple solutions to some of the most pressing problems facing children,” Fabian added, and these problem solvers can either create new technologies or improve those that are already in existence.
The focus areas UNICEF has identified are “ripe for investment due to rapidly changing technologies such as blockchain, 3D printing, wearables and sensors, artificial intelligence, and renewable energy,” Fabian says, and the organization is hoping to attract as many projects and participants as possible over the next several weeks.
Previous projects the relief organization has funded have helped millions of individuals around the world, including RapidSMS, RapidPro, and U-Report.
According to a press release from the U.N. body, project applications will be judged by “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.”