Zambia Chosen as UNICEF Innovation Laboratory
LUSAKA, Zambia, 19 March 2014 (UNICEF) – UNICEF has selected its country office in Zambia as its latest Innovation Laboratory, the 15th innovation centre the United Nations agency has opened worldwide. The Innovation Labs work to bring together the private sector, academia, and Governments to develop solutions for key social issues in child and maternal survival.
“We are now one of 15 UNICEF country offices in the world to have an Innovation Laboratory,” said UNICEF Zambia Representative Dr. Hamid El-Bashir Ibrahim. “This a tribute to our great staff who with our partners have done trailblazing work in using SMS technology in Programme Mwana to dramatically lower the time it takes for mothers to learn the results of early infant diagnosis of HIV.
Our team has worked to inspire more than 40,000 Zambian youth and adolescents to sign-up for U-Report to receive free, confidential, and real-time information on critically important issues such as how they can protect themselves from HIV. I am also proud that we are producing innovative work in our Water, Sanitation and Hygiene programme.”
Chris Fabian, co-lead of UNICEF’s Innovations Unit at the organization’s New York headquarters, is on an official mission to Lusaka this week and told UNICEF Zambia’s staff, “UNICEF Innovation is an interdisciplinary team of individuals around the world tasked with identifying, prototyping, and scaling open-source technologies and practices that strengthen UNICEF’s work.
Our work is built on a set of principles, including open collaboration and learning from failures – all of which have informed our successes.
“Over the past three months we have been tracking UNICEF’s innovation activities and we have recorded more than 230 so far, including Zambia’s Mwana and U-Report initiatives. One amazing example is the app UNICEF offices in Uganda and South Sudan have developed for reuniting families following earthquakes, floods or conflict.
The paper based process typically took six weeks – with the smartphone app we have dramatically reduced that time and we recently had successes with the app in the Philippines following Cyclone Yolanda. This is the type of work that makes you proud to work for UNICEF,” said Fabian, who also met with Zambian Government and cooperating partners during the same week.
UNICEF Zambia’s El-Bashir Ibrahim explained he is currently discussing with Government and other partners where to house the Innovation Laboratory but committed that the lab will be open to children and youth who want to develop and test their ideas, and is confident that the work will produce terrific results in helping Zambia reach the Millennium Development Goals.