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UNICEF on Fast Company’s 2014 Most Innovative Companies List

A community health worker sends a RapidSMS message for an ambulance from the house of a pregnant woman in northern Rwanda. © UNICEF/RWAA2011-00484/Shehzad Noorani

A community health worker sends a RapidSMS message for an ambulance from the house of a pregnant woman in northern Rwanda. © UNICEF/RWAA2011-00484/Shehzad Noorani

“For delivering rapid solutions for local problems,” Fast Company featured UNICEF on its Feb. 13 list of the world’s most innovative companies.

The magazine honored UNICEF for RapidSMS, a mobile data-collection technology that has helped millions of children receive birth registration through text messages.

But it’s only one of many innovative technologies UNICEF is using to help children around the world.

Developed at UNICEF’s Innovation Lab in Uganda, the solar-powered Digital Drum and Digital School in a Box help kids learn even under the most difficult circumstances. Thousands of refugee children from the Democratic Republic of Congo have had their education interrupted, but the Digital School in a Box allows them to continue learning while seeking refuge in Uganda.

During an emergency, children are also vulnerable to being separated from their families. RapidFTR makes reunification much easier. Humanitarian workers can quickly text a child’s name, photo and personal identification information to a central database that is immediately accessible to workers in places where other displaced persons might be.

Beyond emergencies, UNICEF uses technologies like mHealth and DevTrac – mobile technologies that enable tracking health and development data – to share gaps and progress in real-time.

UNICEF is also encouraging youth to become active participants in Uganda’s development using uReport, an information hub that encourages youth to share what’s going on in their communities, promoting accountability and transparency.

Some of these tools were developed in collaboration with students — like the PowerClip used by UNICEF’s RapidFTR team in the Philippines. Have an idea? UNICEF wants to hear from you! UNICEF is calling for students to pitch their ideas for innovations that could help during the first 72 hours of an emergency. Share yours and don’t wait – the contest closes on March 13.

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