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Partnerships for Innovation: UNICEF and frog™


By: Erica Kochi, UNICEF

Design firms behind iconic technology products are broadening their portfolios by increasingly working with health care companies and non-profit organizations to conceive not just gadgets, but also design solutions for societal problems.

frog™, which was involved in the design of the first Apple computer in the 1980s, plans to expand its work with UNICEF by supporting a mobile maternal and neonatal health system in Rwanda. The partnership between frog™ and UNICEF has now been ongoing for more than two years on Project Mwana, a major maternal health initiative using mobile technology to improve early infant diagnosis of HIV in Zambia.

Through the use of RapidSMS mobile technology, the project delivers test results for diagnosis of HIV in infants in real-time to rural clinics and facilitates communications between clinics and community health workers. The community health workers then inform mothers that the results are ready for their collection. Begun as a pilot in 13 districts of Zambia in June 2010, the project has shown a reduction in turnaround time – from sample collection to laboratory to the return of test results to the originating health facility – of more than 50 percent in the country’s rural and underserved communities.

frog™ assigned a design team pro bono to support the project for an intensive six-week period. After this engagement, a one-day workshop brought together key stakeholders from public health programming and mobile health implementers to build alignment. UNICEF and frog™ also collaborated at a later date to work out recommendations for scaling up Project Mwana.

Beyond the direct impact on communities through the project, UNICEF and frog™ have also created a model for incorporating user-centered design and real-time data into a wide range of initiatives – from education to sanitation and child safety – that is being rolled out across the organization. It is now being expanded to the design and operationalization of a mobile maternal and neonatal health system in Rwanda. The system allows workers to register pregnant women, text-message their symptoms into a system and receive alerts if they have reported anything that suggests a woman needs urgent medical help.

The project is being funded by the GE Foundation. The partnership is an example of the new type of funding arrangements through the private sector, where clients support non-profit projects.

For more about the partnership, please click here.

To read an article in the Wall Street Journal on the project, please click here.

To learn more about frog™ social impact activities, please click here

For additional information, please contact: Hiba Frankoul, Partnerships Manager, Strategic Partnerships, Private Fundraising and Partnerships, UNICEF