The UNICEF Innovation Fund offers to invest in companies that are using machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain or extended reality to address digital risks to children in 2021.
Launched in 2016, the Fund is 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. They invest in solutions clusters around $100 billion industries in frontier technology spaces, such as: blockchain, virtual and augmented reality, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.
With over 4 billion people (71% of whom are 15-24 year olds) and 1 in 3 children connected to the internet, children’s lives are being shaped behind a screen. COVID-19-related measures such as nation-wide lockdowns have prompted widespread school closures and physical distancing measures, making online platforms and communities essential to maintaining a sense of normalcy. Children and their families have been turning to digital solutions more than ever to support children’s learning, socialization and play. Efforts are underway to bring connectivity and access to digital solutions to all young people through initiatives like Giga.
While digital solutions provide huge opportunities, these same tools may also increase children’s exposure to online risks and harms. Being online can magnify traditional threats and harms that many children already face offline and can further increase vulnerabilities with online risks also present 24/7/365.
Data suggests that the new reality, imposed by COVID-19 increases the risks to children, posed by online sexual abuse and exploitation, cyberbullying, exposure to potentially harmful content and inappropriate collection, and use and sharing of data. Law enforcement authorities and reporting hotlines have seen a striking increase in the amount of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) being shared online, of which an ever increasing percentage involves self-generated content. While online risks for children have increased, child safeguarding and protection online remain inadequate to support children, their families and education systems to prevent and respond to these risks and harms accordingly. Technological solutions are one crucial element to efficiently respond to the threats of the online environment for children.
Worth of Award
- The UNICEF Innovation Fund provides up to $100K equity-free funding, tailored mentorship to grow open-source solutions and businesses and access to UNICEF’s network.
Projects are assessed by UNICEF Innovation Fund team and recommended for funding to the internal board. Companies need to fulfil the following mandatory requirements to be considered for funding:
- Registered as a private company
- Registered in a UNICEF programme country
- Working on open source technology solutions (or willing to be open source) under the following licenses or their equivalent:
- (i) for software, a BSD license,
- (ii) for hardware, a CERN license and
- (iii) a CC-BY license for design or content, a CC-BY license
- An existing prototype of the open source solution with promising results from initial pilots
- Solution has the potential to positively impact the lives of the most vulnerable children
- Generating publicly exposed real-time data that is measurable
How to Apply
Step I: Check Eligibility
- Interested companies are required to check the eligibility of the Innovation Fund
Step II: Submit Application
- Interested companies are required to submit an online application through the Fund website.
- You should provide the information and supporting documents indicated in the form.
Deadline: Applications are due January 1, 2022