Speaking Out: Young Voices on NCDs

Non Communicable Diseases- the chronic diseases that include diabetes, obesity, cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases- have become a major health and development issue affecting the fulfilment of children’s rights. UNICEF and NCD Child hosted an Activate Talk to highlight innovations in living with and treatment of NCDs in children.

Moderated by Dr. Mychelle Farmer, the talk featured:

Seun Adebiyi, Founder/CEO, Nigeria Bone Marrow Registry, Olympian

Hadleigh Thompson, President, Kids and Families Impacting Disease Through Science Connecticut

Greg Weintraub, Intern, College Diabetes Network

Braam Jordaan, Filmmaker, Advocate for Sign Language and the Human Rights of Deaf people worldwide



New York Activate Talk: Innovative Approaches to Advocate for Child Rights

Watch the NY Activate Talk here. 

On June 10 2014, UNICEF convened an Activate Talk at United Nations Headquarters, as a side-event to “Contributions of Human Rights and the Rule of Law in the post-2015 Development Agenda”- a high-level event convened by the President of the General Assembly from June 9 to 10.  The  New York Activate Talk highlighted how innovative and participatory approaches can help overcome inequality and promote rights for the most disadvantaged children. The event was moderated by Femi Oke and featured the following speakers:

  • Saba Ismael (Pakistan) is the Executive Director of Aware Girls, a Peshawar-based NGO that she co-founded at the age of 15, along with a group of other young women, which works to empower women through training and advocacy. In 2010, she was a civil society representative at the Informal Interactive Hearing of the General Assembly with Non-Governmental Organizations, Civil Society and the Private Sector at the United Nations headquarters.
  • Erik Martin (USA) is a game designer and a student at the University of Maryland creating his own major in New Media and Global Affairs. He is currently organizing a Student Constitutional Convention to create a National Student Bill of Rights with current and veteran students across the country, and works as a consultant to create games that entertain and engage players to promote peace and civil society with the international development agency FHI360.
  • Chernor Bah (Sierra Leone) is a passionate youth advocate and leader, girl champion and former refugee from Sierra Leone. He is the Campaign Coordinator for Youth Engagement at A world at School. Chernor is the youth representative on the high level steering committee for Global Education First Initiative and Chair of the Youth Advocacy Group.
  • Sofia Garcia-Garcia (Spain) is an active member of the Major Group of Children and Youth and the facilitator of its children working group. She ensures that the voices, needs and rights of the youngest children are also represented by the group by convening the voices of the children as well as the information gathered through different consultations by child-led organizations.


Your wearable is selfish. But some are being used for social good

Most of the new wearable devices out there today are focused solely on helping users better their own lives: become more fit, sleep more easily or work more productively. But what if wearable devices could help make the broader world a better place, like enabling more efficient ways to deliver healthcare to poor communities?

A panel sponsored by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Frog Design in San Francisco recently explored this topic of marrying wearables with social good projects in the developing world. For example, Google Glass could better coordinate communication among emergency responders and hospital staff, or a headset could be used for measuring brain waves to enable easier monitoring of conditions like epilepsy.

Google Glass ER doctor

Perhaps it’s not surprising that healthcare has emerged as a good space to meld wearable tech with social good. Some of the most popular wearables out there are wristbands that monitor heart rates and physical activity. Devices that hug the body, are a natural place to use sensors to monitor vital signs.

UNICEF is already using a low-tech wearable device for measuring the nutrition levels of children in developing regions. The non-digital tape, which was showed off during the panel discussion, is wrapped around a child’s upper arm to gauge the circumference, and its tri-color band gives different readings of how well the child is fed.

Designing wearable tech for delivering services in the developing world comes with challenges that aren’t always evident. For one thing, social workers can’t count on a whole-hearted acceptance of high-tech solutions by the people they want to help. There is often a lot of negotiation and figuring out how local culture and practices might affect technology use.

The Embrace bag, which resembles a sleeping bag, protects premature and low-weight babies from hypothermia. It was built for families in developing countries. Photo by Signe Brewster

The Embrace bag, which resembles a sleeping bag, protects premature and low-weight babies from hypothermia. It was built for families in developing countries. Photo by Signe Brewster

“There is an inherent philosophy in every form we create that this serves an empathetic need. But people have bullshit radar for that stuff,” said Denise Gershbein, executive creative director at Frog Design. “We need to think about high tech and low tech. It’s important think about not only the users and their context but also the ecosystems you are plugging into.”

Pompa Debroy, international programs manager at Embrace, which makes the temperature-regulating carrier for premature babies, recalled being surprised at discovering a lack of working thermometers at a hospital where the nursing staff would use a light bulb to keep the babies warm. The fact that the nurses didn’t have the habit of taking the babies’ temperatures pointed to a need that had to be addressed besides training the staff to use the carrier.

One of the major issues that could seriously limit wearable tech’s reach in developing markets is battery life. Access to electricity could be minimal or non-existent in parts of the world where the wearable tech is designed to serve, noted Erica Kochi, a senior advisor at UNICEF.

Are batteries ready for this?

Are batteries ready for this?

One way to solve that challenge is to develop and integrate low-power chips that run the device, said Ian Ferguson, vice president of segment marketing at ARM, a chip developer whose designs are found in many smart phones. Another solution is to move much of the data collected by the wearable device to the cloud to prolong the battery life.

Data collection and privacy will also be a crucial issue to grapple with. “If everybody in the refugee camp is outfitted with a band, is that OK?” Ferguson said. “As people rush to get (wearable tech) out, we will need a common framework on what data we have access to and what we don’t.”

Youth with Disabilities and Innovation; Making the World Inclusive for All

On June 13 2014, the Disability Section convened an Activate Talk on “Youth with Disabilities and Innovation: Making the World Inclusive for ALL!” at UNICEF Headquarters.  The Activate Talk brought together young people with and without disabilities who have come to New York as representatives of the Youth Council of the Global Partnership for Children with Disabilities to participate in the 7th session of the Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. They explored the intersection of inclusion, stigma, discrimination and innovative approaches to coping with these issues in the context of the post-2015 agenda.

The event was moderated by Sarah Crowe of UNICEF and featured the following speakers:

  • Lucy Meyer, Spokesperson for Children with Disabilities, Special Olympics Athlete 15 years old (USA)
  • Nguyen Phuong Anh (Crystal), runner up, Vietnam’s Got Talent 17 years old (Viet Nam)
  • Tongai Dana, Young Voices Leonard Cheshire International, 24 years old (Zimbabwe)
  • Kartik Sawhney, winner Science All India Topper, 19 years old (India)
  • Njelekela Ashura Michael, Miss Deaf Kenya, 21 years old (Kenya)

UNICEF and Harvard Convene Innovators and Thought Leaders for an Activate Talk

How do we bring Internet connectivity to the unconnected? How can innovation help? Why do millions remain unconnected despite unprecedented advances in technology? Is access to information a human right? How do we ensure sustainability? Funding?

These were just some of the questions discussed during the Boston Activate Talk  that took place on April 30th.  UNICEF, in Collaboration with Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, convened an Activate Talk to highlight the latest innovations related to providing connectivity and access to information to the world’s most marginalised communities.

Dr. Sharad Sapra on innovation for children.

Dr. Sharad Sapra on innovation for children.

The event kicked off with a key note address from Dr. Sharad Sapra, UNICEF’s Principal Adviser on Innovation and Director of UNICEF’s Global Innovation Centre. The keynote focused on innovation for children and innovation for equity.

Following Dr. Sapra, the speakers presented their work in short TED-style presentations. The featured speakers were:

– Bruce Baikie, Executive Director, Inveneo & Founder of Green WiFi
– Paulo Rogério Nunes, Executive Director, Instituto Mídia Étnica
– Regina Agyare, Soronko Solutions, finalist for African Digital Woman of the Year
– Susan Carroll Schorr, Head of Special Initiatives Division, International Telecommunications Union

Wivina Belmonte, UNICEF Representative in Malaysia, moderated the event and the Q&A that followed. The speakers and Dr. Sapra took questions from the room as well as the online audience through Twitter.  Check out some of the social media reactions and discussions on Storify and please join the conversation here.

The Boston Activate Talk is the third in a series of Activate Talks that UNICEF is convening as part of the Year of Innovation for Children, Innovation for Equity. The Activate Talks will inform UNICEF’s flagship report The State of the World’s Children report and are a driving component for the 25th anniversary of the Convention for the Rights of the Child.




UNICEF and frog present “Wearable Technology for Social Impact”

Today’s conversations surrounding wearables tend to diverge and converge around fitness and health, and it remains to be seen where the concentration will lie. While the act of logging exercise points or sleep hours are crucial elements of the health and wellness phenomena, there are even greater opportunities to apply wearable technology to other areas,including chronic disease prediction and prevention, social crisis, personal identity and security. As we expand the wearable conversations to emerging markets, the use cases multiply even further.


Innovating to Connect the Unconnected

Internet access may be growing but millions remain unconnected. How can innovation solve this? As part of a series of UNICEF talks focused on innovations for children, the Boston Activate Talk featured some of the most innovative approaches to increasing internet access for underserved, marginalised and isolated communities.


  • Bruce Baikie is the Executive Director of Inveneo and the Founder of Green WiFi.
  • Paulo Rogerio Nunes is the Executive Director of the Instituto Midia Etnica,the leading Black Media NGO in Brazil.
  • Regina Agyare is a social entrepreneur, founder of Soronko Solutions , and finalist for the African digital woman of the year.
  • Susan Carroll Schorr leads the digital inclusion work of the International Telecommunication Union, ensuring that women and girls, youth and children as well as persons with disabilities and Indigenous Peoples participate in the Information Society.

The Boston Activate Talk examined some of the following questions, with a focus on children and youth:

  • What types of innovations are needed to connect the unconnected?
  • What are the key enabling factors and challenges?
  • How important is scalability?
  • How do we ensure sustainability?
  • How do go further – going beyond minimal access to full benefits of the internet & related technology.

More information on this event is available here.