Recently, the United Nations made a proposal to Mauritius for the setting up of a United Nations Technology Innovation Laboratory. This was taken note by the Cabinet. The Technology Innovation Laboratory is a platform established as part of the UN Information, Technology and Communication (ICT) Strategy and aims at promoting the development of new and innovative technologies to deliver on developmental projects, while assisting countries in achieving their Sustainable Development Goals. A Workshop will be organised by the UNDP in Mauritius in November 2018, to further discuss the proposal with stakeholders.
UN Technology Innovation Lab Network (UNTIL)
All Labs in the UNTIL network support one another. Each Lab shares its information and experiments with the others, communicating the aspects and issues that lead to success and those that resulted in failure. Additionally, each Lab carries the potential to create concept models that may be adapted by other Labs. Every implementation is a test bed for potential results that seek to address complex problems. All UNTIL Labs will work together and constitute a network of innovation operating under the UNTIL Global Programme oversight.
Partners of the UNTIL
Government, academia, NGOs, and private sector are often involved in the programme eco-system.
Government can collaborate with innovation Labs in executing national initiatives by sharing their data, experience, or resources. In some cases, the public sector has its own research Laboratories, providing a ready network of collaborative partners and/or the ability to share useful quantifiable data and/or, in other circumstances, the data collected by a Lab can benefit government partners as they seek to reform or launch initiatives.
Academia has strengths in technical knowledge, capacity for research, and enthusiasm. Academic partnerships often include an agreement with a local university, where students from partnering departments have an opportunity to gain real world experience by helping to build projects that make a difference in their community. Local or international academia may also have a research Lab, or recurring academic courses that can share resources—including inviting student teams to work with UNTIL in developing solutions to pervasive challenges. UNTIL also present academia with an opportunity to work closely with the government and private sector globally.
The opportunity to benefit from the existing network and specialized experience of local NGOs is often exploited by UNTIL. The type of expertise that a collaborating NGO can bring to the innovation Lab includes local outreach, the open source technology community, and/or NGOs operations in a development sector that overlaps with the Lab’s own priority focus. A partnership of this kind can lead to UNTIL focusing on its strategic strengths while a partner provides its own distinct value and connects the Lab to specific communities and issues.
Private sector can contribute to the Lab work in a variety of ways. Mobile or technology providers can partner around the Lab’s services. Manufacturers can produce physical products that are implemented in the field. Companies could also offer space or equipment in return for a supplied service. Additionally, the private sector can share their professional know-how when hosting a skills workshop in the Lab. This provides mutual benefit as companies help build the skills of youth seeking experience through Lab activities, with the idea of finding motivated people for hire.
Mauritius is not the only country targeted for the UNTIL. For instance, in India, two UNTIL Labs are planned to become operational soon in the country: one in the State of Kerala and another one in the State of Haryana. The Kerala Lab will focus on water, agriculture and electric cars. UNTIL Kerala will be hosted in “Technopark Trivandrum” which is home to hundreds of start-ups and tech giants. The Haryana Lab will concentrate on women entrepreneurship, identity management as well as women in tech.
In Cairo, Egypt, the UNTIL Lab will be hosted by Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre and will focus on eEducation, eHealth, industry and agriculture. The United Nations (UN) has announced the opening of its African Technology Innovation Lab (UNTIL) in Egypt, in line with its framework to deploy a global network of such labs.
The launch of the new lab was announced on the sidelines of the latest Cairo ICT Conference, held under the auspices of Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. It has been designed with the intent to train, host and implement technology innovations and to develop innovative technology solutions that address global challenges. The Egyptian Lab will be focusing on a number of fields and thematic areas related to the education of People with Disabilities (PwDs), prevention of epidemics, medical tourism and waste management for protecting the environment and rationalising water consumption in agriculture.
Moreover, in Malaysia, the Malaysian government with other local stakeholders, such as Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC) have identified four core thematic areas the UNTIL Malaysia lab projects will focus on:
- Ethical fashion & textiles: using blockchain & 3D printing
- Smart cities: IoT, GIS, AI
The UNTIL Malaysia lab is located in Cyberjaya. Located 20 minutes from the heart of Kuala Lumpur, Cyberjaya is Malaysia's global tech hub, and home to over 2,300 start-ups, SMEs and tech giants.
In Finland, the government and local stakeholders have identified the following core thematic for the UNTIL Finland lab technology projects: Peace and security, Education, Health and Circular economy. The Finnish UNTIL lab is being situated just 20 minutes metro ride from the busy streets of Helsinki at A Grid, a startup hub and one of Europe's largest centers for growth companies. A Grid is part of the Aalto University campus and a gateway for the university's talent, cutting-edge research, and other international resources. One of UNTIL key roles is to foster partnerships and provide a global perspective for local technology innovation eco-systems already present in the host country. UNTIL provides network connection to other UN Member States and leverages local expertise for global value added. UNTIL engages key actors in the host country and links them through technology solution development and proof of concepts to key actors in other Labs locations.