UNICEF Innovation Fund Invests in Skills and Connectivity

Eleven new startups added to the Fund’s 2020 Investment Portfolio

UNICEF Innovation
‘Start-Up Za’atari’ is part of the UNICEF X ONE Humanitarian Changemakers Lab, a new partnership to equip vulnerable youth in Jordan with the knowledge and business skills needed to design their own solutions to everyday challenges and to promote entrepreneurship and jobs.
13 July 2020

Eleven startup companies using frontier technology solutions to address complex challenges and create fairer opportunities for children and young people will receive seed funding from UNICEF’s Innovation Fund.

This cohort focuses on solutions that bridge learning or connectivity gaps towards employability - bringing the portfolio of start-up investments to 50 - and features two technology areas (data science and extended reality).

Nearly 4 billion people (29% of whom are 18-24 year-olds) remain unconnected from the internet, and by extension unconnected to digital products that could dramatically improve their lives. Adding to this challenge, the gender digital divide is also growing, and studies show men outnumber women on the internet as much as two to one. COVID-19 has and will change the world permanently - communities are experiencing an unprecedented level of dislocation where people must stay connected through technology at a level that has never been seen before. 

In the post-COVID-19 world, the need for connectivity for all is even more clear – and that need is not simply for gigabytes, but for what those gigabytes contain. An entire global population will need to work–and to work in new ways–to provide for their families and communities. That means new skills, new ways of collaborating, globally, and new ways of getting paid.


in Jordan, two adolescent girls use cellphones outside a solar kiosk in the Za’atari camp for Syrian refugees

UNICEF Innovation has led the establishment of Giga, a global initiative which aims to connect every young person to the internet and to information, opportunity and choice. As schools and their communities are brought online through Giga, the Innovation Fund will be able to increase access to valuable open-source digital solutions.

For the latest round of investments, UNICEF’s Innovation Fund has selected 11 startups across 9 countries to address four “Global Breakthrough” areas identified as opportunities in the Generation Unlimited agenda: job-matching, remedial learning, remote learning and work, and digital connectivity

In addition, 5 out of these 11 companies have female founders, bringing the proportion of female-founded companies in our portfolio closer to 50% - the goal of our Smart Investing Initiative.

OTTA project team building an AI powered alternative and augmentative communication platform
Chivas Venture Argentina Media Team
The OTTA project team building an AI powered alternative and augmentative communication platform.

This cohort has been selected in response to a call for applications issued around skills and connectivity for youth, and based on the potential of their solution to address UNICEF programmatic needs related to COVID-19 response. The Fund received over 350 submissions from 60+ UNICEF programme countries.

A brief overview of the eleven startups:

GenU Global Breakthrough: Job Matching
Generation Unlimited

Job Matching

Giraffe (South Africa): Job-matching portal to connect candidates with employers, and develop a skills-gap analysis platform

GenU Global Breakthrough: Digital Connectivity
Generation Unlimited

Digital Connectivity

GeoSpoc GeoSpatial (India): Platform using artificial intelligence and machine learning with satellite data to map schools and hospitals in India

GenU Global Breakthrough: Remedial Learning
Generation Unlimited

Remedial Learning

VRapeutic (Egypt): Personalised VR content for children diagnosed with ADHD and autism for skill-based learning

Angaza Elimu (Kenya): Digital learning platform for adaptive assessment, and tailored support; works offline in regions with low connectivity (piloted in refugee camps)

WonderTree (Pakistan): Game-based learning for children with special needs

Comunicación Aumentativa (Chile): AI enabled communication assistant using pictograms for children with speech impairments

I-STEM (India): Remedial learning dashboard for students with disabilities providing automated workflows, accessible content conversion, and mentorship matching services

GenU Global Breakthrough: Remote Learning & Work
Generation Unlimited

Remote Learning & Work

Propter (Serbia): Remote work platform for teachers to make tailored learning content using VR

Agora for Education and Development (Egypt): Game-based guided learning app for children, and augmented reality content creation platform

Inspired Ideas (Tanzania): Health assistant tool to support healthcare workers in remote areas through diagnostic decision support, next step recommendations, and disease outbreak predictions

StockKnowledge (Philippines): Remote STEM learning and management system to track student progress

The companies will not only benefit from the seed investment provided by UNICEF, but will also gain access to UNICEF’s Innovation team and networks -- providing support from technical assistance to networking with industry leaders, as well as creating a community around the open source solutions developed.



UNICEF’s Innovation Fund has been specifically designed to finance early stage, open-source technology that can benefit children. The core motivation of the Innovation Fund is to identify “clusters” or portfolios of initiatives around emerging technology - so that UNICEF can both share markets and also learn about and guide these technologies to benefit children. We invest in solutions clusters around $100 billion industries in frontier technology spaces, such as: blockchain, virtual and augmented reality, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.

Generation Unlimited (GenU) is a global partnership to change the status quo and overcome barriers to young people’s progress, such as the lack of basic connectivity, quality education and training opportunities. This round of investments will address four “Global Breakthrough” areas identified as opportunities in the GenU agenda: job-matching, remedial learning, remote learning and work, and digital connectivity.

Giga, an initiative launched by UNICEF and ITU in September 2019 to connect every school to the Internet and every young person to information, opportunity and choice, is supporting the immediate response to COVID19, as well as looking at how connectivity can create stronger infrastructures of hope and opportunity in the "time after COVID."