UNICEF Innovation Fund to invest in big data, AI, IoT startups

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UNICEF, the nonprofit charged with helping children worldwide, is actively seeking ways to accomplish that mission through new technologies including real-time analytics, artificial intelligence, and IoT sensors. The agency is partly achieving this by investing in startups using these technologies through its UNICEF Innovation Fund.

"The purpose of the UNICEF Innovation Fund is to invest in open source technologies for children," said Christopher Fabian, UNICEF Innovation Co-Lead, in the announcement today.

"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 agency says that startups qualify for a piece of the $9 million and growing Fund by presenting open source projects with working prototypes that either use a new technology or build on existing ones.

The three areas the Fund is most interested in investing in are:

  • Products for youth under 25 to address a range of needs including learning and youth participation;
  • Real-time information for decision-making; and
  • Infrastructure to increase access to services and information, including 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," Fabian said. 

If you want to submit an Expression of Interest (information on how to do so is online), you have until February 26 to do so.

One industry most benefitting from big data and its many tools — from real-time analytics to IoT — is the non-profit humanitarian sector. Unfortunately, the group is struggling mightily to gather enough data and often resorts to using data exhaust and social media data as it tries to beg more data from the commercial sector.

It makes perfect sense that UNICEF funds startups that can help address this problem in highly creative ways and stream more information to them as well.

For more:
- see UNICEF Innovation Fund website

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