By Rabindra Giri
Kathmandu, Nepal, 16 July 2014 – UNICEF Nepal recently launched the “Idea Studio” in order to find creative solutions to existing problems for the children and women of Nepal.
As part of its mandate to use innovation and technology to create sustainable change, the Idea Studio is a National Competition which is open to all, with the ultimate objective of igniting social change and unlocking young potentials.
Conceived in partnership with the Kathmandu University School of Management and Childreach Nepal, this unique initiative, also involves the private sector and media.
Launched nationally with celebrity endorsements from all walks of life, including UNICEF Nepal’s own National Ambassador, Ani Choying Drolma, the Idea Studio invites all motivated Nepalese, particularly youth, to submit ideas that can help solve social and development issues in their communities.
Titled “From Idea to Industry”, the competition invites applicants to come up with creative ideas, in any field, that can be turned into a business or an enterprise.
“We want to encourage Nepalese to think out of the box and come up with innovative ideas that foster development and create entrepreneurship, particularly against the backdrop of so many youth migrating abroad every day,” said Ms. Hanaa Singer, Country Representative for UNICEF Nepal.
After all submissions have been made, the shortlisted innovative ideas will be selected for mentorship at the Kathmandu University School of Management (KUSOM) Idea Studio.
At the Idea Studio incubation lab, business leaders, and faculty and students of KUSOM, will work with the innovators to transform their raw ideas into viable business proposals.
After the incubation period, the groomed innovators will present their ideas to business leaders in a nationally televised reality show. Ideas that are selected will receive investment from business leaders and financial institutions.
“Entrepreneurship can change sceptics and turn hopes around and make profound changes in their societies and communities,” said Professor Subash KC of KUSOM.
ChildApp to harness technical prowess of youth
Closely linked with the Idea Studio, and something that will tap on innovative applications, a few days later, UNICEF Nepal organised the ChildApp Appathon. The appathon seeks to develop innovative web, phone, desktop and game applications that can solve common problems related to children’s issues.
Organised in collaboration with the Microsoft Innovation Center Nepal and Childreach Nepal, the event included 102 young developers, programmers and designers, grouped into 29 teams. These had been whittled down from the original 560 applicants.
These teams participated in a 60-hour app development process to prepare solution prototypes for the problems each group had selected.
Tackling topics as varied as water quality testing to teacher absenteeism, and immunisation to applications that aid pregnant women and mothers, the teams utilised their technological prowess to come up with winning ideas.
All the while, they were being coached by experts from banking, technology and child rights agencies who volunteered their time to mentor the teams.
“From what we witnessed today, I believe that the partnership between technology, innovation and aspiring talent, is the right platform to create new solutions to our old problems, and take ordinary Nepalese into the 21st century,” said Allen Bailochan Tuladhar, Country Director for Microsoft Innovation Center Nepal.
Ultimately, an application with bilingual and voice recognition capability that can test the safety of drinking water and displays the results, with location information on a map, was declared the winner of the ChildApp Appathon.
Conceived by engineering students Milan Karki and Darpan Pudasaini, the app won a cash prize of Nepali Rupees 100,000 (approximately US$1000). This app is noteworthy in a country where less than half of the population have access to clean drinking water.
“For us it was tackling one of the biggest problems facing most Nepalese, which is lack of access to safe drinking water. That is why we designed our application to be user friendly for everybody, even those that cannot read,” said Milan Karki, 22, one of the duo from the winning team.
The team that came second developed an application featuring virtual classrooms, and the third team developed an application that helped track information about birth registration and prenatal and postnatal care via telephone SMS service.
The top five teams will now participate in the Idea Studio mentorship programme at KUSOM and will receive training and investment to turn their winning ideas into winning enterprises.
“You are the agents of change this country has been waiting for, and you can propel Nepal into a hub for high-tech industry that will create decent jobs at home for the members of the new generations,” said Ms. Singer.