UNICEF in Kazakhstan opens an innovation lab in Almaty aimed at developing and integrating information technology solutions to improve the quality of life of children.
The innovation lab is the first-of-its-kind laboratory in the Commonwealth of the Independent Countries (CIS) and is hosted by International IT University (IITU).
“The lab aims to foster product design and development – and those developed through the lab will be brought to market. In addition, UNICEF will also share its programme knowledge to the lab so that the products developed can have maximum impact within the communities we serve. The opening of an innovation lab presents a significant outlet to bring about innovative ideas from Kazakhstan” said Fiachra McAsey, UNICEF Deputy Representative at the opening of the lab.
Bringing together both internal and external partners, the innovation lab will focus on enabling young people to solve pressing issues relating to children and adolescents with the use of information technology. The laboratory will also serve as a platform – harnessing the youth’s ideas and solutions and developing those into end products, such as mobile applications, electronic platforms, and tools that can be scalable within and beyond the country.
The innovation lab is open to students from different universities and professionals from various backgrounds. Successful products developed through the lab can also apply for start-up venture capital funding through UNICEF’s Innovation Fund.
“The idea of creating the centre surfaced more than a year ago – during a time when UNICEF and IITU organised a hackathon for IT students. A great number of ideas emerged during the hackathon ranging from addressing child abandonment, child suicides, protecting children from information on the Internet, health problems, malnutrition, and school violence. In the future, we plan to integrate mobile applications, robotics, simulators and other gadgets in the lab” said Damir Shynybekov, Head of IITU.
Since 2010, Similar UNICEF Innovation Labs have opened in 12 other countries including Indonesia, Kosovo and Jordan. UNICEF’s global network of Innovation Labs offers a meaningful launching pad to engage with a wide range of youth and partners around innovative solution which have provided positive impacts on the lives of the most vulnerable children and their families.
In Uganda, the Innovation Lab developed a mobile phone-based data-collection system called EduTrac, which is now available worldwide. The system enables to collect real time data including teacher and student attendance and delivery of materials. EduTrac helps districts improve their education planning and provides better and timelier supervision to schools based on system reports.