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Social Good Summit panel debates the Web, social media, apps and handsets in service of A Promise Renewed

MP Nunan and Rebecca Obstler

NEW YORK, United States of America, 25 September 2012 - UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake asks you to imagine a football stadium. But he asks you to think about it in terms of child mortality.

UNICEF correspondent MP Nunan reports on the Technology for Development: Renewing the Promise for Child Survival panel at the Social Good Summit, New York, 24 September.  Watch in RealPlayer


“We have cut child mortality by 40 percent since 1990. Some countries…have cut it by over 60 percent. And that’s great news,” Mr. Lake said.

“But the fact is that, today, 19,000 kids will die,” he continued. “Just imagine that a football stadium or Madison Square Garden full of those kids, who are going to die today.  If they were all there, and the world knew – we could see them – do you think the world would be paying even more attention than it does now? I think it would.”

Social media and A Promise Renewed

Mr. Lake was speaking as host of a panel debate on Technology for Development: Renewing the Promise for Child Survival at the Social Good Summit, a social media event taking place during United Nations week in New York. Moderated by CNN World Report Anchor Zain Verjee, the panel followed a presentation by Hans Rosling, Professor of Global Health at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, and Co-founder and ‘Edutainer’ of www.gapminder.org, who animated data to make the case that child survival is core to development. 

The panel discussion served a dual purpose. First, it underlined how social media can be used to make people more aware of challenges confronted by UNICEF and other organizations, such as preventable child deaths. Second, it highlighted how people around the world can be empowered through the use of social media.

Social media are one of the ways UNICEF is highlighting A Promise Renewed, a pledge for governments and others to do everything they can to accelerate progress on reducing child mortality rates.

 “We have 150 governments signed up; hundreds of non-governmental organizations and faith-based organizations have signed up, as well,” said Mr. Lake. “We’re asking you all to sign up as well at APromiseRenewed.org.”

© UNICEF/NYHQ/2012/Markisz
Ethiopia’s Minister of Health Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during the Technology for Development: Renewing the Promise for Child Survival panel discussion, a Social Good Summit event held in New York. With him are: (left to right) CNN World Report Anchor and moderator Zain Verjee, author Clay Shirky, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah.

To complement the website and associated orchestrated push, and to harness the power of social media, UNICEF is spreading the message of A Promise Renewed through an ambitious global social media campaign including a YouTube playlist, Twitter hashtag #Promise4Children and a Facebook page.

Challenge for social media

One panelist, writer and educator Clay Shirky, explored the movement of knowledge about children who die around the world on a daily basis.

“The tragedy is, of course, that the world does know. When a child dies, someone knows,” Mr. Shirky said. “It’s just that the information is so hopelessly distributed and opaque that that information can’t be aggregated, and can’t be acted on, and it’s always after the fact that it surfaces.”

“The least connected people...have the least ability to characterize their own lives in public in a way that other people can see and act on,” continued Mr. Shirky.  “The challenge for social media…is: what if we can create a way for the world to know what the world knows?”

 “What I think we want from everyone here and all the folks you guys can reach is to get people motivated,” said another panelist, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development Rajiv Shah.

The summit itself was a social media event. Audience members tweeted and blogged about discussions, while, around the world, a global audience joined the Global Conversation, a 24-hour ‘conversation’ during which thousands of people joined events in New York. The conversation – the biggest of its kind – trended for days.

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake speaks during the panel discussion. USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah is beside him.

Technology must meet access

Panelists considered how access, or lack of access, to Internet and mobile phone technology can be such a critical issue for many in the developing world.

For example, Ethiopia is one of the nations that has cut its mortality rate for children under 5 by over 60 percent since 1990. But, as panelist Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Minister of Health of Ethiopia, pointed out, that achievement was accomplished through extension workers going house to house in rural areas to educate people on health issues.

“Mobile services helped,” said Dr. Ghebreyesus. “Health workers use mobile services, and that has given them some leverage.”

Basic mobile services are a key access point to using social media techniques, said Mr. Shirky. He has worked with UNICEF in Uganda on such projects as U-report, a free mobile SMS service that enables youth to voice opinions and village health teams to collect health-related data that can affect policy, and a programme that helps people locate family members displaced by war.

“The technology in the field has to be what people can get their hands on,” Mr. Shirky said.  “The value of low-tech connectivity is much higher than the value of high-tech one-way information-giving.”

In June of this year, the major conference Child Survival, A Call to Action called for governments and partners to sign A Promise Renewed, a pledge to work toward greater child survival. A Promise Renewed is part of the United Nations Every Woman Every Child movement launched by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The Social Good Summit is the premier social media event occurring during United Nations week. The summit hosts hundreds of new media experts over the course of several days, featuring presentations by leading entrepreneurs, government officials and advocates working to further public goods and development. 



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