Five startups will get a share of Unicef’s $9 million Innovation Fund

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“The United Nations has announced the first five startups to receive investment through its its $9 million (£7.2m) innovation fund.

Unicef, the UN’s children’s charity, will be giving seed funding to companies working to create affordable mobile connectivity, blockchain in childhood development, data collection in maternal care, and technology to help improve literacy skills.

The funding comes as part of Unicef’s Innovation Fund – launched in February – and will see the organisation put up to $100,000 into each of the five firms. The companies picked to receive backing from Unicef are SayCel (from Nicaragua), mPower Social Enterprises Ltd (Bangladesh), 9Needs Pvt Ltd (South Africa), Innovations for Poverty Alleviation Lab (Pakistan), and Chatterbox Dating Mobile (Cambodia).”


Startups have traditionally be the primary sources of innovation. Great to see the recognition that innovation can happen everywhere. Of special interest is the funding of a blockchain project: 

9Needs Pvt Ltd: Using blockchain the company is developing identity and contracting systems to let South African childhood development programmes register children and provide reliable databases.”


While initial focus will be on childhood development registration, the implications are broad and powerful. Once children are registered, a single record can be employed for government, medial and employment verifications. As broad as the possibilities are, so too are the potential ethical dimensions.