The United Nations Foundation announced today the launch of a new report, Mobilizing Development, that examines a partnership with The Vodafone Foundation that brought together the United Nations, the world’s largest humanitarian system, with one of the largest mobile operators, and how this collaboration has mobilized innovative partnerships in the use of technology for development. The report identifies shifts in public-private partnerships and trends that will help improve humanitarian response, global health and development work.
“Our work with The Vodafone Foundation has helped lead the way in connecting mobile technology with the global health and humanitarian relief communities,” said Kathy Calvin, CEO of the UN Foundation. “We’ve got the technology in our hands to strengthen health systems and improve disaster response. Partnerships like this one prove what can be done to accelerate innovation that can mean the difference between life and death, health or sickness for millions of people around the world.”
As the Technology Partnership between the two foundations marks the milestone of its initial five year, £15 million (approximately $28 million) program, the report looks back at the accomplishments of this public-private alliance, highlighting both the achievements and lessons learned through on-the-ground stories and interviews with staff, grantees, partners and beneficiaries.
Vodafone Foundation Director Andrew Dunnett welcomed the report, saying: “Partnering with the UN, through the UN Foundation, enabled us to take ‘technology for good’ ideas to scale. Our investments in the use of technology were designed to support the UN’s global health and humanitarian work, and efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals.”
Outcomes of Technology Partnership’s work include:
• Piloting mHealth programs in over a dozen countries: Through funding for the World Health Organization and the social enterprise DataDyne, health ministries across sub-Saharan Africa participated in mobile health pilots that increased the efficiency and effectiveness of health programs.
• Dozens of emergency communications deployments: Through partnerships with the World Food Program and the non-profit Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF), emergency communications professionals deployed to dozens of disasters and rebuilt communications centers for aid workers, enabling aid to flow more quickly to affected populations.
• Hundreds of health and disaster relief specialists trained: Dedicated trainings in the use of mobile and satellite-based communications systems strengthened health and disaster relief workers’ ability to use the latest technology tools effectively in the environments where they operate.
• Thousands of professionals connected: The foundations funded knowledge sharing platforms in both the global health and disaster relief communities that enabled specialists across sectors and geographies to learn from one another, and further developed a webinar series training mHealth users.
• Co-founding the mHealth Alliance, a multi-stakeholder network designed to bridge public and private sectors in advancing the use of mobile technology to improve the delivery of health information and services in low and middle income countries. The two foundations continue their work together as Founding Partners of the mHealth Alliance.
The report, written by former Financial Times UN bureau chief Mark Turner, highlights three models of partnership that the foundations embraced, including:
• Innovation incubator: By providing funding for UN programs, and seeding experimental innovation without the pressure of showing commercial results, the foundations created a safe space that incubated innovation in the use of technology for development.
• Thought leader: By investing in research and promoting those results, the partnership produced a series of groundbreaking reports that created a roadmap in new uses of technology to advance international development.
• Cross-sector convener: By bridging the technology and humanitarian communities, the foundations created a middle ground where public and private sectors could meet to exchange resources and ideas, and identify new ways of working together.
The report also identifies, through the UN Foundation and Vodafone Foundation experience, shifts in public-private partnerships and the use of technology for development, including:
• Flexible models of partnership: While the partnership between the foundations began as a grant-making program, over time they found creative ways to bring Vodafone’s corporate and market expertise to bear. Ultimately the foundations helped to launch the mHealth Alliance, a multi-stakeholder network that allows for more flexible contributions from both foundations and accepts financial and in-kind donations from new partners.
• Technology-enabled, human-centered aid: The foundations’ programs and research leveraged the tremendous growth in the use of mobile technology that has put powerful computers in the pockets of many in even the most marginalized populations, and opened new, two-way communications channels that are informing and reiterating the way technology is used as part of development and aid.
• Information as aid: As a collaboration between a telecoms company and the aid community that focused on leveraging wireless technology to strengthen development work, the Technology Partnership revealed how information and communications, traditionally looked at as supporting components of aid work, are actually critical components of development and humanitarian assistance.
Components of the report are available in an interactive story-telling format at www.unfoundation.org/tech4dev.
About the UN Foundation & Vodafone Foundation Partnership
The Technology Partnership between the United Nations Foundation & Vodafone Foundation has been a leading public-private alliance using technology programs to strengthen the UN’s humanitarian efforts worldwide. Created in October 2005 with a £10 million commitment from The Vodafone Foundation matched by £5 million from the UN Foundation, the Partnership has had three core areas of focus: (1) to strengthen communications in humanitarian emergencies though capacity building and support for disaster response missions; (2) to support the development of mobile health (mHealth) programs that tackle critical public health challenges and improve public health systems, decision-making and, ultimately, patient outcomes; and (3) to promote research and innovation using technology as a tool for international development. The UN Foundation and The Vodafone Foundation are among the founding partners of the mHealth Alliance. More information about the Technology Partnership can be found at: www.unfoundation.org/vodafone.