UNICEF Cryptocurrency Fund Invests in Tech Startups Fighting COVID-19 in Emerging Economies

Eight technology companies in developing and emerging economies will receive investment from the UNICEF Cryptocurrency Fund (CryptoFund) to solve local and global challenges.

In an email shared with Blockchain.News, UNICEF announced that its CryptoFund will invest 125 ETH into eight tech startups from seven different developing nations. The companies—Afinidata, Avyantra, Cireha, Ideasis, OS City, StaTwig, Somleng and Utopic—will be awarded the Ethereum cryptocurrency to fund the development of prototypes, pilots, or scale their technologies over six months.

All of the above investees have previously been the recipients of UNICEF’s Innovation Fund and are now receiving cryptocurrency to continue the development of their open-source and digital public goods.

UNICEF’s Innovation Fund

UNICEF’s Innovation Fund is the first of its kind within the UN and offers financial support of up to $100,000 USD, as well as technical advice and mentorship, to worthy startups that are innovating to improve the world through open-source technology.

Christina Lomazzo, Blockchain Lead at UNICEF told Blockchain.News, “There are different ways to actually explore how these new exponential technologies may have an impact on UNICEF and one of those ways is through a venture fund, because it actually widens the amount of exposure that we have to the tech.”

UNICEF does not take any equity away from these startups and exclusively invests in open-source projects, that are based in UNICEF program countries. Lomazzo said, “These projects are typically in emerging or developing economies—the thing that is so fantastic is that they are building solutions for local challenges.”

According to Lomazzo, one of the difficulties within the tech space is the assumption that new technology built in places like San Francisco or New York will automatically translate to every single geography’s needs, which she asserts is “absolutely not the case.” This is why UNICEF invests in local innovation and exclusively open-source technology that can be accessed by everyone. Lomazzo said. “Open source software can reach the most people and the beneficiaries of our venture fund are solving local challenges which will also have a greater impact. When you start building for those who are in low connectivity areas, or those who are not literate—those types of tech applications will also work in developed economies.”

Investees Fighting COVID-19

The investees of the CryptoFund come from seven different emerging or developing economies. Several of the startups benefitting from the CryptoFund are working to mitigate the hardships of COVID-19 on children and youth around the world. They are collaborating with national governments and local partners to send vital messages on COVID-19, track the effectiveness of rice delivery to vulnerable communities, improve children’s literacy through remote learning, treat pandemic and isolation-related anxieties, and other vital solutions.

“We are seeing the digital world come at us more quickly than we could have imagined – and UNICEF must be able to use all of the tools of this new world to help children today and tomorrow,” says Chris Fabian, Senior Adviser, co-Lead, UNICEF Ventures. “The transfer of these funds – to eight companies in seven countries around the world – took less than fifteen minutes and cost us less than five dollars. Almost instant global movement of value, fees of less than 0.000015% of the total amount transferred, and real-time transparency for our donors and supporters are the types of tools we are excited about.”

Besides funding, investees receive business growth mentorship, product, and technical assistance, open-source and UX and UI development, access to experts and partners, as well as opportunities to showcase their solutions.

The UNICEF Innovation Fund and CryptoFund currently have an open call for blockchain solutions to apply for funding (up to $100,000 and cryptocurrency combined) and mentorship. 

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