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UNICEF hosts conference on innovation and development

NEW YORK, 11 February 2009 – Experts in technology, academics, UN officials and development professionals joined forces today at a conference to explore concrete ways to deploy new and existing cell phone and online technologies to address poverty and disease in the poorest areas of the world.

The three-day conference, called Web4Dev: Innovation for Access and hosted by UNICEF, was opened by UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman today.

Veneman challenged participants to work together to find creative new solutions to age-old problems, like access to information, health and nutrition services for poor and isolated communities.

“The task here this week is to put innovation and technology at the service of humanity,” Veneman said.

The conference will draw lessons and inspiration from existing programs that are proving effective. One such innovation, an award-winning SMS health-monitoring initiative in Malawi jointly piloted by UNICEF and Columbia University, provides rural health workers with the means to use mobile phone technology to collect data about children’s health and nutrition and to receive instant, expert advice on essential health interventions.

“In Malawi, health workers are using text messages to send information instantaneously on malnutrition from remote communities to ensure that life-saving supplies can arrive in time - and in the quantity needed - to help avert suffering and prevent deaths,” Veneman said.

The conference’s four main themes are: improving access to information and establishing communities of practice; knowledge-sharing; the use of technology for monitoring and evaluation; and the delivery of supply-chain items in remote locations and in emergency situations.

A special focus of conference workshops will be the role that cell phone technologies can play in education, in increasing access in crisis situations, and in monitoring health interventions.

Background: Web4Dev: Innovation for Access is the fifth in a series of annual events organized by the United Nations to showcase the impact of modern technologies on development. Previous Web4Dev conferences were hosted by the World Bank (2003, 2005), the United Nations Department of Public Information and the Global Alliance for ICT and Development (2006), and UN-Habitat (2007).

Note to editors: Ustream.TV will be providing a live stream of the following portions of Web4Dev 2009: Opening session, innovation track workshops, and closing session. To view and chat in the Ustream.TV live stream of Web4Dev visit http://www.ustream.tv/channel/web4dev---innovation-for-access-2009. To view this stream, you must have the latest version of Adobe Flash Player (10), which can be downloaded at http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer. Any high-speed internet connection (DSL or Cable, not dial-up) should work to view the stream. If you have problems connecting, contact support@ustream.tv.

For a list of participants and a detailed agenda, please visit the conference website at: www.web4dev.org

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, safe water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:
Najwa Mekki, UNICEF New York, +1-212-326-7162, nmekki@unicef.org
Kate Donovan, UNICEF New York, +1-212-326-7452, kdonovan@unicef.org





13 February 2009:
UNICEF correspondent Amy Bennett reports on this year’s UN Web4Dev conference, hosted by UNICEF. Edited by Edward Bally.
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11 February 2009:
At the Web4Dev conference, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman talks about how technology is helping to save lives and protect the most vulnerable.
  VIDEO  high | low

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