On 28 June 2018, the South-South development tools, technology and innovations that support the achievement of SDGs for children webinar took place, addressing the links between South-South Cooperation (SSC) and the expansion of access to development tools, technology and other innovations for children. The webinar was organised by United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG) and the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC).
Martha Santos (Programme Manager, South-South/Horizontal Cooperation, UNICEF NYHQ) was responsible for moderating the event, and was joined by speakers Tanya Accone (Senior Adviser, Innovation, UNICEF Global Innovation Centre), Maria Eugênia Sózio (ICT Kids Online Project Coordinator, Regional Center for Studies on the Development of the Information Society, under the auspices of UNESCO), and Hana Sahatqija (Adolescent Development Officer, UNICEF Innovations Lab).
1. RapidPro: Harnessing technology for change in the Global South
Opening the session, Tanya Accone introduced RapidPro, an open-source software that enables users to connect and build interactive messaging flows that allow people to connect information in real time. It has the Global South at its heart – born, bred, built and scaled in and by the South.
The principles of the RapidPro:
- Design with the user
- Build for sustainability
- Reuse and improve
- Understanding the existing ecosystem
- Be data driven
- Do no harm
- Design for scale
- Use open source
- Be collaborative
RapidPro originated in Eastern and Southern Africa almost a decade ago, when SMS technology was piloted by programmes in Zambia in 2007. In 2012, Uganda was the first country to reach national scale, with the real-time health application, mTrac. In 2014, RapidPro was launched as a result of UNICEF partnering with a Rwandan team to expand the open source platform.
RapidPro global application
An interesting initial observation was how countries could adapt and build new functionalities of the technology:
- In Cambodia, real-time information provides life-saving early warning and informs future preparedness. They have also added interactive voice recognition.
- In Mozambique, weekly nutrition monitoring complements monthly reporting. Here, phone credit transfers between users was also introduced.
- In Indonesia, applying RapidPro to strengthen the health system provided insight into global dashboard design.
- In Senegal, Community Health Workers who were trained in using RapidPro built their own medical evacuation solution allowing patients to more efficiently access hospitals.
- RapidPro has been adopted and adapted by 52 countries.
- 85.8 million mothers and community members, community health workers, vaccinators, and health facility staff use digital health platforms in 18 countries.
- 5 million adolescents and young people are members of the youth empowerment and engagement platform.
- U-Report, and the immediate community members they share information with, operates in 42 countries.
- 3.3 million frontline workers and programme managers and their communities in 28 countries use RapidPro to power real-time information exchanges for improved programme coordination and monitoring.
- RapidPro is being adopted by the North to, as seen in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Ireland.
Therefore, innovation and technology, thanks to the adaption and initiative of various projects, has seen the development of impactful South-South development tools used to support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
2. Global Kids Online
Maria Eugênia Sozio began by affirming the important role technology plays for sustainable development and achieving the 2030 agenda. In this context, data and evidence generation are a crucial step for tracking the progress towards the SDGS, but there is a need for better measurement and monitoring for evidence-based policymaking.
She presented the Global Kids Online project, which is ‘an international research project that aims to generate and sustain a rigorous cross-national evidence base around children’s use of the internet by creating a global network of researchers and experts’, especially in countries of the Global South.
The Latin American experience
Global Kids Online enjoys global reach, as Canada, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Ghana, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania and other countries have joined the project. Maria focused her presentation on the South American experience, where Brazil has been a pioneer with its annual representative survey since 2012.
In the context of South-South Cooperation for the achievement of SDGs for Children, four topics are especially important:
- Data needs: awareness-raising on the importance of evidence-based policymaking;
- Data production: funding;
- Data use: capacity-building initiatives;
- Data sharing: experience sharing through cross-national studies.
Maria highlighted the importance of building horizontal cross-national and multi-stakeholder partnerships to engage countries in the process of evidence generation. This applies to not only academia and government, but also civil society organizations and the private sectors. This is an essential and strategic approach to connect evidence with policymaking aimed at children’s well-being in the Global South.
A key challenge in the Latin American context was coordinating so many countries facing different challenges. Besides all the cultural differences, the aim was to produce content with comparable data and this is only possible with this horizontal cooperation.
3. UPSHIFT – Social Impact Programme
Hana Sahatqija presented the UPSHIFT – Social Impact Programme, which was started by the UNICEF Innovations Lab in Kosovo about 3 years ago. It aims to help youth (especially the marginalized) to become social innovators and entrepreneurs through a structured continuum of experiential learning. Participants are supported in understanding community challenges, and then design and build solutions in the form of products or services. Essentially, youth are provided with the opportunity to start and lead social ventures.
The three key goals are:
- Build professional readiness for sustainable livelihoods;
- Build resilience and civic engagement;
- Build the ecosystem.
Today, the project operates in Kosovo, Montenegro, Jordan, Lebanon, Myanmar, Vietnam, Tajikistan, Moldova, Sudan, Italy, Macedonia, Ukraine and dozens of another countries. Beyond the project and the people that run the programme, the exchange of knowledge between stakeholders is essential to its success.
In terms of South-South Cooperation, some key modalities were used:
- Exchange of expertise through technical assistance, missions, stretch assignments.
- Knowledge exchange with trainings, and global and regional meetings.
- Exchange of resources through technology transfer and tools.
This process of cooperation followed this flow:
Hana highlighted the added value of South-South Cooperation, which has supported the international expansion of the project thanks to the initial cooperation between countries. There is still room to improve the project primarily through the improvement of analysis and information exchange.
This blog post is part of the CoP-SSC4C Webinar Series, which brings together the summaries of webinars organised by UNICEF, IPC-IG and UNOSSC on the topic. Please join the Community of Practice on SSC for Children (CoP-SSC4C) if you are interested in following the most recent discussions on the topic. If you have any thoughts on this webinar summary, we would love to hear from you. Please add your comments below!