Skopje, 16 December 2019: At a three-day design thinking workshop over the weekend, some fifty young innovators from around the country, worked with passion to elaborate their digital solutions to remove barriers that children and young people with disabilities experience in education and community life. The youth challenge is part of the Foundation Telekom for Macedonia and UNICEF partnership to reduce the digital divide and to use technology for inclusion of children and young people with disabilities.
“Research shows that children with disabilities do better academically and socially when they learn side by side with their peers in mainstream schools. Research also shows that inclusion of children with disability helps all children in the classroom to learn empathy, fairness, collaboration and solidarity, and that these values in turn drive up grades and school outcomes,” said Patrizia Di Giovanni, UNICEF Representative.
Aged between 14 to 24 years, the teams of young innovators focused on a range of ideas including bionic arm and smart wheelchair to mobile apps to improve communication and learning. Five (5) were selected and each received seed funding and additional mentor support to further develop their ideas in the upcoming months.
"The biggest challenge of our time is not how to build a digital society, but how to build a fair digital society, where there is space for everyone, without exceptions. The best way to move forward is to empower young people to design solutions and use technology as a tool to serve people. All the teams that were part of this youth challenge have shown that they just need to be given some 'wind in their sails' so they can set off in a path to push boundaries,” said Nikola Ljusev, Chief Executive Officer, Makedonski Telekom.
In June 2020, the final two most promising solutions from the country will be submitted to a global judging process. These projects will have the chance to receive further funding of up to $20,000, along with a tailored global incubation programme from Generation Unlimited partners to support them to scale. The UNICEF and Telekom Foundation for Macedonia “Youth Challenge – Digital Inclusion” is being implemented with SmartUp with support from the Macedonian Scouts Association.
More about the teams and their ideas:
The five teams selected to receive seed funding and mentoring support to implement their projects include:
- Bionic Team: A low cost robotic arm that reads muscle sensors can help people without limbs in their daily lives; developed with open source, 3D printer and less components the model costs between $150-$200.
- Mind Benders: A digital restaurant menu inclusive and accessible to all developed using universal design principals. The application aggregates menus from participating restaurants and presents them in different formats adapted to different impairments visual, hearing, dyslexia, intellectual disability. The technology can be used to improve accessibility to information in other sectors including education and health.
- From Zero to Hero: Developed a smart wheelchair that is managed through eye control and has sensors to monitor the physical well-being of the user as well as object detector sensors.
- PortComSign: An application that converts voice language to sign language and vice versa.
- Something Unordinary: A mobile app One + One that connects volunteers with children and young people with intellectual disabilities to organise social activities.
About Generation Unlimited
The Generation Unlimited challenge 2019/2020 - which this year takes place in 40 countries worldwide, including ours - called for applications from young people to create solutions that will support the three key pillars of Generation Unlimited: secondary-age education; skills for learning, employability and decent work; and empowerment. In our country, through a public call, young people were invited to offer innovative answers to the question “How can digital technology contribute towards a more active inclusion of children and youth in education and everyday life?”.
To find out more about Generation Unlimited visit https://www.genunlimited.mk/
For more information, please contact:
Foundation Telekom for Macedonia: Lea Lipsa Tel: +389 23242506, email: FoundationTelekomforMacedonia@telekom.mk
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.mk.