The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) has announced an investment into South African technology startup AMPLY, which uses blockchain and advances in identity technology to better manage early childhood development services. AMPLY is a 9Needs portfolio startup, and is one of several digital tech innovations looking into new ways to achieve healthy, sustainable development.

This is the UNICEF Innovation Fund's first portfolio investment in open source technology, aimed at improving connectivity, real time data collection, identity technology and learning. The fund also invested in four other startups, namely:

  • Saycel (Nicaragua): provides affordable mobile connectivity to communities that are not on
    the traditional information grid in rural areas.

  • mPower (Bangladesh): create a digital registry platform to improve data collection and
    delivery of maternal and child health care.

  • Innovations for Poverty Alleviation Lab (Pakistan): creates stories and information that can be played over a simple mobile phone to help fathers (who may be semi-literate) support their families for better maternal and newborn health.

  • Chatterbox (Cambodia): provides a fundamental technology layer to be integrated into UNICEF's RapidPro platform to extend its reach to communities that are low literacy, particularly in Cambodia, but eventually globally.

AMPLY uses blockchain infrastructure and smart contracts to improve Early Childhood Development (ECD) services in South Africa, where it is used to collect and manage the information collected by ECD centers. The investment from UNICEF will facilitate a field test where 50 ECD centres will use the AMPLY system over 12 months.

The ECDs will use online digital registries to record identities of child beneficiaries and service providers while the blockchain will be used to record data exchange transactions and service attendance, and issue as well as help with redeeming of vouchers digitally during this period.

UNICEF is looking to further invest in 20-40 additional startups in 2017 after this, their first portfolio investment.

β€œThe UNICEF Innovation Fund is a new way of doing business at the UN; combining the approach of Silicon Valley venture funds with the needs of UNICEF programme countries,” Cynthia McCaffrey, Director of the UNICEF Office of Innovation

β€œThe Fund allows us to prototype technology solutions, as well as expand our networks of open source collaborators to improve children’s lives,” Cynthia McCaffrey, Director of the UNICEF Office of Innovation, said. "The UNICEF Innovation Fund will help us source and support companies that might be overlooked by traditional investment vehicles, thanks to them being able use their footprint of the UNICEF's 190 offices and 12,000 staff."

Interested startups can apply for investment via the UNICEF Innovation Fund website.

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