Can innovation improve people’s lives? You bet

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Today UNDP is operating in an environment that is more complex, fast-changing, interconnected and more diverse than ever before. Exponential growth and connectivity and the use of mobile technologies are making possible unprecedented access to real-time news, information and ideas, enabling people to express their views through many new channels and to mobilize for change.

 

Opening the UNDP Global Innovation Meeting, held in October 2013 in Montenegro, UNDP chief Helen Clark emphasized: “For us at UNDP to stay relevant and be considered a reliable and responsive development partner we must be flexible and adopt new ways of doing our work. We need to discover, incorporate and demonstrate truly innovative solutions to development challenges and we need to apply them at every stage from the inception and design, to incubation and implementation.”

 

Drive for innovation has long been the focus of the UNDP Ukraine development agenda. Through a number of hackathons, innovation labs, and Social Good Summit meet-ups, the United Nations development agency brings together on a regular basis leading thinkers and practitioners, social innovation champions, students, academia, business representatives, innovators, and trend-setters to find solutions to the challenges that Ukraine faces.

 

UNDP has initiated and supported a number of innovative projects that resulted in practical tools and solutions that improve services and tackle problems effectively and efficiently.  Several apilot projects tested new and out-of-the-box approaches to solving developmental problems in the areas of municipal solid waste management, e-governance, administrative services provision, anti-corruption, access to public information, and citizen engagement with policy-making.

 

For example, our Crowdsourcing project (http://oon-rozvytok.com.ua) was instrumental in engaging tens of thousands of Ukrainians from all walks of life in identifying a topic for our next Human Development Report. The project’s goal was to obtain public feedback on key development tasks, the implementation of whichare aimed at improving the quality of life of the people of Ukraine. The platform also fulfilled an important social role – motivating people to be more actively engaged in policy- and decision-making.

 

The UNDP-supported “Ecomisto” (http://ecomisto.if.ua/) online platform is aimed at improving municipal solid waste management and allows citizens to report problems with the waste containers, container sites, and illegal dumping to responsible local government entities. It also offers local residents accurate information about the nearest waste container sites, waste removal routes and their schedules, and helps raise the local population’s awareness of environmental protection.

 

The “OpenIdeas4UA” Hackathon brought together civil society activists who have first-hand knowledge of important social issues (corruption, access to information, e-governance) and IT-practitioners. The participants generated 16 technical solutions, three of which were supported though micro-grants.

 

Two of the ideas generated at the hackathon were successfully developed and became popular. One of them,   the web-based application “POIZDka” (TRAINride), allows train passengers to report a problem and file a complaint if it is not addressed.

 

Another one called “I Gave A Bribe” (later merged into CorruptUA) allows people to report and map the instances when they were asked to pay a bribe.

SmartCity: Municipal Innovation Lab: In partnership with the Association “E-Governance Cities of Ukraine”, business, and civic partners, UNDP brought together seven mixed teams from Ukrainian municipalities to jointly design e-solutions to current challenges their citizens face.

 

Reducing Alcohol Consumption among the Youth in Lviv City is being implemented in close collaboration with the Behavioural Insights Team (Nudge Unit, UK) and Lviv City State Administration. It focuses on “nudging” the choices made by young Ukrainians by studying and interpreting the motives underlying their decision-making. It will apply behavioural insights to design and determine the effectiveness of certain communication tools and products meant to discourage Ukrainian teenagers from consuming alcohol, alcopops in particular. 

 

Hyperlocal Social Network in Vinnytsya:  From Complaint Forums to the Solution Development Platform, designed as a discussion platform between citizens and local authorities, accumulates information localized in accordance with existing neighbourhoods (districts), integrating local blogger sites, information services, photo galleries, existing social networks, and existing resources. The web platform aims to create a culture of dialogue, include active social network users in the discussion on local development,  identify new community leaders, and encourage new local initiatives.

 

Ambient Accountability of the One-Stop-Shop Centre for Administrative Service Provision in Novograd-Volynskiy Municipality aims to develop the environment and physical space of the Administrative Services Provision Center in a way that helps citizens to orient themselves in the process of the provision of the five most popular but complicated services: permits for urban construction; permits for outdoor advertising; assignment of the state social assistance to poor families; permits for cutting and trimming greenery; and permits for the organization of touring events in the city. 

 

Technological progress can be an effective means of improving people’s lives, in particular those who are excluded from society due to disability, poverty, race, gender, or disease. It is amazing and admirable to hear that now space robots can reach Mars and bring back fantastic pictures and valuable information. It is equally amazing to see examples of how new technologies can give voice to people with hearing disabilities, provide knowledge and information to those who otherwise cannot afford them, cure  previously incurable diseases, empower the marginalized, and thus improve the lives of millions of people.