UNICEF Innovation Fund: Data Science/Artificial Intelligence Portfolio

6 months update

Zenani Orengo and Meghan Rose Warner
ladies looking and typing at computer
UNICEF

09 August 2019

It has been six months since UNICEF Innovation Fund onboarded its largest round of investments. The portfolio of thirteen startup companies are developing open source digital public goods to address complex challenges and create fairer opportunities for children and young people. 

Among these thirteen investments are three companies utilizing Internet of Things, Data Science and Artificial Intelligence for scaling solutions in water, sanitation and hygiene, early childhood development and newborn health. 

Throughout the investment period, UNICEF is leveraging its vast network to connect these companies to UNICEF’s work in their respective countries and provide technical and business development support. In addition, the open source code and use cases are being guided to address specific programmatic needs so that UNICEF, its partners, and local entrepreneurs can leverage these learnings and scale innovative solutions that have the potential to positively impact children's lives. 

Here are some of the key updates from each of the companies over the first six months of their investment period:

Afinidata team discuss their solution with UNICEF early childhood development specialist Ana Nieto
UNICEF Innovation
Afinidata team discuss their solution with UNICEF early childhood development specialist Ana Nieto

 

Afinidata (Guatemala):

Afinidata, in Guatemala, uses artificial intelligence to provide parents with a personal assistant that guides them with personalized and effortless early-childhood activities.

Key Highlights:

  • In the last six months Afinidata have delivered over 45,000 educational activities through their chatbot.  
  • In the course of six months the team have reached 15,000 families in Latin America, and are growing at a rate of 1,000 new users per week - some of these users acquired in partnership with two local government programs. 
  • Afinidata has achieved a notable retention rate with 80% of users returning by day 7 and 70% of users returning by day 30. 

 

Conative labs (@nilebot15) who placed third in @AFDB_Group Agritech competition designed to instill a culture of innovation and nurture technology-led agribusiness innovations to create jobs and improve livelihoods among the youth.
AFDB_Group
Conative labs placed third in AFDB_Group Agritech competition designed to instill a culture of innovation and nurture technology-led agribusiness innovations to create jobs and improve livelihoods among the youth.

 

Conative Labs (Egypt):

Conative Labs  is developing a hardware called ‘Nilebot’ that senses the water quality of aquaculture in real-time. Applications of the core technology for the provision of access to clean water is being explored during the investment period.

Key Highlights:

  • The team secured their biggest sales account to date and have generated 2x revenue compared to last year.
  • Placed third and secured funding from the African Development Bank, African Youth Agripreneur Forum agritech competition.
  • Selected by World Summit Awards Arab Digital Innovation Forum as one of the best 8 solutions in connecting for impact in the region

 

Hyma Goparaju, Co-founder of Avyantra discusses the user interface of the solution with Tedbabe Degefie Hailegebriel, Senior Adviser Newborn Health during the Cohort Workshop held in New York in April 2019
UNICEF Innovation
Hyma Goparaju, Co-founder of Avyantra discusses the user interface of the solution with Tedbabe Degefie Hailegebriel, Senior Adviser Newborn Health during the Cohort Workshop held in New York in April 2019

 

Avyantra (India):

Avyantra in India addresses the early diagnosis of neonatal sepsis by applying a machine learning model that captures data of newborns with neonatal sepsis conditions and their associated treatments.

Key Highlights:

  • Partnered with 3 hospitals obtained through presentations to respective ethics committees and subsequent clearances (1 large public hospital and 2 large private hospitals in South India).   
  • Data Collection for building neonatal sepsis algorithms and unified platform in progress at the collaborating hospitals.
  • Initial runs of predictive algorithms based on machine learning methods run for the data collected and subsequently piloted in the three hospitals. 
  • Achieved 85% accuracy of predictive algorithms to detect neonatal sepsis, aiming to achieve 95% accuracy in the coming months

 

The start-ups that receive funding through UNICEF’s Innovation Fund join the investment portfolio for 12 months. During this period, they receive up to $100K in tranches as well as business, product, and technical mentoring, communications and story-telling support and introductions to relevant potential partners, amongst other things.

Over the next 6 months of the portfolio experience, these data science and AI companies will be working on completing their solution prototypes and will continue testing in the field. Also, the companies will be seeking follow-on funding to continue their work.