Tech Bets for an Urban World

Principles for Partnership

The six tech bets demonstrate what businesses can do to generate positive global impact while realizing strong market potential. Partnership principles informed by UNICEF’s experience working with the private sector and by the Convention on the Rights of the Child are needed to maximize that positive impact potential. To ensure that initiatives across the six tech bets support women and children and help them thrive, we’ve identified the following principles:

Asset 49.png
Asset 26.png

Digital Learning

Technology should enhance rather than replace teachers.

Evidence suggests that learning software and other tech tools can improve educational outcomes, but are not replacements for strong, in-person interactions and learning from teachers. In fact, technology tools show the strongest learning outcomes when combined with strong curricula, motivated and talented teachers, etc.

There is no one-size fits all approach.

Consider local contexts and how solutions can be adapted to local needs and ways of learning.

Impact on educational outcomes is the central goal.

It is not enough to demonstrate that children like using a product and use it regularly. Tech players need to show (and hold themselves accountable to) changes in long-lasting learning outcomes.

Children have the right to privacy.

Everyone benefits if learning can be personalized for children through the collection of data. Parents and educators should provide informed consent for this data to be collected and it should not be used for advertising or other sources of revenue.

Asset 49.png
Asset 56.png

Multi-Modal Skilling

Impact on employment outcomes is the central goal.

It is not enough to measure success by number of sign-ups. Tech players need to show (and hold themselves accountable to) changes in employment outcomes in the years following the end of the course.

Industry standards for skilling requires collaboration.

Definition (and certification) of the standards that are required for different types of employment (e.g. data scientist) should come out of collaboration between educators and employers, where possible.

Diversity in access.

The people who start and complete
skilling courses are a small subset of the population that could benefit from it
and in many cases skews towards people who already have a relatively high level
of education or employment. Efforts to attract new market segments and to include groups who are underrepresented in TVET and tertiary education will help increase impact.

Asset 49.png

Emergency Response

Minimum standards are needed for emergency care and transport.

Investors and innovators have a responsibility to ensure the quality of the providers that are available on their platform, including ensuring that the quality of staff and vehicles does not go beyond the minimum required.

Alternative methods and redundancy are needed.

In an emergency, users should not have to rely solely on a good internet connection or a functioning smartphone. Best practice providers will have a hotline and 24 hour support to ensure that technical problems do not get in the way of the fastest possible response.

Access should be as broad as possible.

Private healthcare companies are an important stakeholder in the pursuit of universal access to healthcare, including access to potentially life saving emergency care. As far as it is possible, private companies should work to increase access for segments who have not historically been able to afford private ambulances.

Safety is the priority.

The costs of poorly designed or maintained products is too high when people’s lives are at stake. Innovators should commit to rigorous and regular testing for reliability.

Asset 57.png

Smart Recruiting for the Informal Economy

Platforms need to fight discrimination.

On many platforms, users have the right to hire, fire and provide feedback on workers but are not subject to normal oversight. Platforms should be designed to identify and mitigate patterns of discrimination.

Worker protections should be universal.

Benefits and protections should be universal, applying to all workers and all forms of employment.

Workers deserve fair wages.

Recruiting platforms should not be leading a race to the bottom, where efficiencies are found by cutting the wages and minimum hours of workers.

Safety should be prioritized in design.

Platforms have an obligation to protect all their users and workers and should have integrated safety features and robust policies on reporting and acting on all reports of harassment or abuse.

Benefits and protections should be portable.

Given that workers often use more than one application, their benefits and protections need to be attached to them  rather than to their employers. Employer contributions. E.g., could be pro-rated depending on time worked.

Asset 49.png
Asset 59.png

Smart Recruiting for the Informal Economy

Safety of riders is the first priority.

Investors and innovators have an obligation to minimize risk of harassment. For example, it should be possible for employees to easily and anonymously opt out of riding with another colleague. Collaboration with employers and authorities to resolve serious and criminal cases of harassment should be the norm, and innovators should hold themselves to account for safety even in countries where safety regulation (or its enforcement) is insufficient.

Effective transport systems require collaboration.

As cities evolve, multimodal journeys are becoming more and more the norm. Ride sharing is part of solution, but so is public transport, cycling etc. Investors and innovators should try to work with city leaders and planners, contributing to holistic solutions that reduce congestion, reduce pollution and decrease the cost of commuting for low income segments in particular.

Asset 49.png
Asset 60.png

Water Metering

Customer data should be stored and used appropriately.

Customers and utility companies benefit when the (near) real-time  data provided by smart meters is used to improve the efficiency of service, for example by better anticipating surges in demand or possible shortages in the system. At the same time, investors and innovators should ensure adequate privacy protections for users, including explicit and informed consent on how data is collected and used by the innovators, utility companies and third parties.

Work with utility companies that are committed to increasing access.

The reduction in costs from the automation of meter checks and the reduction of non-revenue water, does not necessarily translate into better service for users. As much as it possible, innovators and investors should work with utilities to ensure that metering projects actually result in improvements for citizens, particularly those at the base of the pyramid.



UNICEF has a long history working alongside people and governments around the world. We believe we can proactively work together, to ensure products meet real user needs and advise governments on how to foster innovation while protecting the most vulnerable people.


Insights about new audiences

Utilize our expertise of people and places. The people that understand the innovative solutions children, youth, and women in emerging cities need are precisely those that live there. To reach the next billion users tech audiences will need to better understand the audiences UNICEF knows well.  We can help you get to know local context, challenges, and opportunities by leveraging our deep expertise in country offices all over the world.

Build Buy-In

Bring interesting and appropriate players to the table. UNICEF can leverage their visibility and support to get actors on board that may not have joined before. For example, by convening innovators, Government and funders (many new to the space and others very familiar with it)  and  to explore opportunities for collaboration in potential early adopter cities.

Introductions to Governments

Help open doors. We have developed relationships with governments that take an incredible amount of time and effort to form. We believe approaching governments as a united front will make us both more attractive to work with from a government perspective. 

Protections and Standards

Use our expertise to make the industry better. UNICEF can convene and help Governments and industry develop standards which meet the needs of vulnerable children, youth and women.