Minister Ciaran Cannon joins UNICEF event to hear how ground-breaking technologies like artificial intelligence, drones and blockchain could change the world

PRESS RELEASE

Minister Ciaran Cannon joins UNICEF event to hear how ground-breaking technologies like artificial intelligence, drones and blockchain could change the world

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DUBLIN, 11 April 2019 – Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ciaran Cannon TD, joined senior leaders in technology, innovation and humanitarian development this morning to hear how technology is making a life-changing difference to children around the world. Taking part in UNICEF’s Tech for Humanity event at Facebook’s International HQ in Dublin, Minister Cannon and attendees heard how UNICEF is utilising ground-breaking technologies like artificial intelligence, drones, internet of things and blockchain to help support children’s rights in 190 countries and territories.

Following the recent release of Ireland’s new strategy for international development, A Better World, Minister Cannon highlighted the rapid pace of global change; outlining how Ireland must be flexible, responsive, adaptive and innovative to be a leader in the future of development. “Innovation offers us potential to evolve our approach, reach people faster and do things better,” said Minister Cannon. “In an era where mobile technology can be found in the most remote locations, there is enormous potential and energy for change that we can harness, often by working in partnerships, in order to do things better. New ideas, approaches and technologies can allow us to reach the furthest behind first and through harnessing innovation in flexible and adaptive ways, we can better manage risk and overcome complex challenges.”

Minister Cannon was joined at the event by UNICEF Ireland Ambassador Donncha O’Callaghan who spoke about UNICEF’s long-standing focus on innovation. “Since its foundation, over 70 years ago, UNICEF has had innovation at the very forefront of its work with children. From a water pump that was originally designed by a self-taught Indian mechanic and has since gone on to provide fresh, clean water to millions of families and children; to solar powered vaccine boxes, which mean life-saving vaccines can be kept cool as they are transported to some of the most remote parts of the world,” said O’Callaghan. “Today our dedicated Innovation team are focused on cutting-edge technologies that have the potential to deliver widespread change, like artificial intelligence, drones, Internet of Things and blockchain.”

UNICEF has prioritized innovation across its network of more than 190 countries, setting up digital innovation labs around the world including in Afghanistan, Chile, Kosovo, Uganda, and Zambia to foster new ways of thinking, working and collaborating with partners. By harnessing the latest technologies, UNICEF’s Office of Innovation works to strengthen programs and transform international development. This work has led to significant impacts on child survival and development worldwide.

Attendees at the event also heard from Gareth Lambe, Head of Facebook Ireland. “Facebook and UNICEF work closely together on using innovative technology to further children’s rights around the world and we are delighted to host this event at our International Headquarters today.”

Today, with conflicts and crises threatening and displacing millions of children worldwide, and millions more facing poverty, deprivation, violence, exploitation and discrimination. The event saw UNICEF teams highlight the potential that corporate partnerships, focused on technology and innovation, can have on children’s lives. UNICEF Ireland Executive Director Peter Power said: “The UNICEF innovation team has worked to utilise the very latest technologies and tools, such as artificial technology, to make a difference in the lives of children. Partnerships from Ireland and across the globe allow for creators and leaders in tech to test ideas, harness new technologies, and 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 life-saving and life-changing programs.”

In recent years, technological advancements and the work of the UNICEF innovation team has helped change the lives of millions of children around the world, including:

  • delivering prenatal care to thousands of pregnant women across Rwanda
  • improving the diagnosis and treatment of children with HIV in Zambia
  • registering the births of more than 7 million children in Nigeria
  • tracking the distribution of 63 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets
  • creating a direct feedback loop for more than 190,000 young Ugandans to engage with their government and change policy in real time

UNICEF is working with academia, dynamic private sector partners and government to increase the impact and scale of its work with children across the globe. “The current conflicts, natural disasters, and global problems that are confronting humanity cannot be solved by only one country or one organisation,” said Power. “We need to come together and find the best ideas and that means collaboration and partnerships with government, leaders in the private sector, and academics leading the way in research.”

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About UNICEF

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

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Contacts

Danny Smits, UNICEF Ireland, +353 87 1308070, danny@unicef.ie