UNICEF’s co-head of Innovation, Chris Fabien, to address Dublin Web Summit

4th November 2015

Time 100 Awardee will highlight how innovation has helped save children’s lives.

Dublin, 4 November 2015 – UNICEF’s co-chief of Innovation, Chris Fabien will this afternoon address the Dublin Web Summit on how the power of technology and innovation can be harnessed to make a meaningful difference in the lives of vulnerable children around the world. Mr Fabien, who co-leads UNICEF’s Innovation Unit with Erica Kochi, was selected as one of Time 100’s most influential people in 2014.

By harnessing the latest technologies and design thinking, UNICEF’s Innovation unit works to strengthen programs and transform international development practice. This work has led to significant gains in child survival and development worldwide.

UNICEF’s Innovation chief, Chris Fabien said: “In the Innovation unit, we work to utilise 21st century ideas and tools to transform ordinary people’s lives in extraordinary ways. We partner with organisations across the world to test ideas, push decisions and help scale up innovations. Our innovation programs can develop and support solutions that are transformative – at scale – for the world’s most vulnerable children. Our ultimate goal is to reach the hardest to reach children with lifesaving and live changing programs.”

Mr Fabian spearheaded the development of open source technology known as RapidSMS, a free platform for data collection, logistics coordination and communication. RapidSMS employs simple cell phones to deliver real-time information critical to improving the health and protection of children.

This work has helped UNICEF deliver prenatal care to thousands of pregnant women across Rwanda, improved the diagnosis and treatment of children with HIV in Zambia, registered the births of more than 7 million children in Nigeria, tracked the distribution of 63 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets, and created a direct feedback loop for more than 190,000 young Ugandans to engage with their government and change policy in real time. Since the development of RapidSMS, organizations across the developing world have used the technology to create better communication and coordination.

UNICEF began focusing on innovation as a tool for humanitarian change more than 40 years ago, increasing immunization rates by more than 60 per cent since the 1980s; creating low-cost, lifesaving interventions like Oral Rehydration Salts (an inexpensive mix of salt, sugar and water that helps save children who have acute diarrheal disease); and boosting competition and driving down prices in the vaccine markets through transparency.

The work of the Innovation Unit has won global recognition. The Digital Drum was chosen as one of TIME Magazine’s best inventions of 2011 and was featured as part of an exhibition by the American  National Design Museum. Made locally with low-cost drums and solar panels, the computer kiosks provide pre-loaded health and education content for children living in rural, isolated communities in Uganda without access to the Internet.

UNICEF is working with academia, universities and dynamic private sector partners. “The problems that are confronting our generation are not going to be solved by one country working on things alone, and they are not going to be solved by a huge amount of technology in the global north,” says Mr. Fabian. “But they will be solved when people can collaborate together, and when people see how important the systems behind those problems are and how unimportant the technology itself is.”

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