Photo: UNICC

Girls and Women Talking Tech – 100 Interviews – Over 20 from UNICC

As we move further into the information age, women and men need to be equally represented as shapers of our increasingly digital world. One way to inspire and empower girls and young women is to showcase success stories.

UNICC is proud to be working with ITU, the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth and EQUALS to present the Girls and Women Talking Tech series, which grew out of ITU’s Girls in ICT Day in 2018-2019 with conferences at Microsoft and Cornell Tech in New York and at UNOG in Geneva. UNICC is supporting with this effort SDG 5: Gender equality and women’s empowermentSDG 4: Quality Education as well as UNICC’s own gender parity initiatives.

For 2020, it wasn’t possible to have physical meetings anymore, so the group started to host dialogues online – and by now this has been a big success and radically transformed the scope of the initial project. UNICC continues to include more and more UNICC women in interviews, often with the assistance of Break Through Tech Winterns and Communications team interns. Across the inter-Agency team, the goal is to engage women in 196 countries!

Also a blog post marking the 100th interview milestone has been published at ITU News, where 200 girls and women in ICT share their stories on digital transformation, diversity and inclusion.

We could not be prouder of this community of over 200 women committed to supporting one another. Envisioning how many more minds have been inspired and growth opportunities have been triggered by the project is deeply gratifying and shows how digital initiatives and partnerships can make a tangible, positive difference in people’s lives.

Anastasia Bektimirova, Talking Tech team at ITU

UNICC women were able to share lessons they learned along the way, advice about careers in technology and stories that inspired and help many young girls. Check out our playlist that includes all the interviews UNICC women have participated in.

Despite the growing demand for information and communication technology (ICT) professionals, women still trail male counterparts in terms of pay, leadership roles, and representation in the digital sector. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021 suggests that only 14 per cent of those working in cloud computing, 20 per cent of engineers, and 32 per cent of data and artificial intelligence professionals are women.

These disparities are concerning, not least because technology-related careers arguably dominate today’s job market. Moreover, the underrepresentation of women means their voices are absent from decision-making when it comes to designing our digital society.

As we move further into the information age, women and men need to be equally represented as shapers of our increasingly digital world. One way to inspire and empower girls and young women is to showcase success stories. Of course we need men to be active supporters and collaborators of this direction and perspective.

The Talking Tech: Girls and Women in ICT interview series promotes girls and women in the sector. Today, there is nothing they cannot achieve in this fast-evolving field.

Participants range from experts in artificial Intelligence (AI) to electronic sports (esports), astronauts to leaders of UN Agencies, and ambassadors to corporate executives. In the interviews, women and girls from around the world share achievements and challenges, exchange advice and network with one another – all to inspire others with evidence that every girl can fulfil great potential in the ICT sector.

UN Women - UNICC Design Thinking Event
Photo: UN Women and UNICC

UN Women – UNICC Workshop for Safer Public Spaces

Incorporating the voices of women and girls in Guadalajara for innovative urban solutions

On 25 and 26 August, over 25 women from the city of Guadalajara and its metropolitan area, in Jalisco, Mexico, engaged in a design thinking exercise to ideate and prototype solutions to make their city safer for women and girls. This event followed up on the Safe Cities for Women Thinkathon organized in November of 2020 by UN Women and UNICC, an event that aspired to amplify women’s and girl’s voices and need for access to safe and inclusive public spaces during the pandemic and beyond, within the framework of the Safe Cities Programme.

The goal of the two-day design thinking workshop was to develop and test solution prototypes, taking the best of the ideas to create a viable product created by UNICC for use in the field.

UN Women recognises the importance of incorporating the voices of all women and girls in their diversity to not leave anyone behind, as well as generating multisectoral alliances through initiatives like this one. Now, we intend to make this innovative proposal into a reality so that it is replicable and scalable in order to guarantee that women and girls from Guadalajara and its metropolitan area can exercise their right to the city free from all forms of violence.

Andrea Cházaro, Coordinadora del Programa Ciudades Seguras en México

The design thinking workshop was a collaborative problem-solving activity leveraging the results of a cycle of interviews with local key actors in innovation and public policy, as well as a survey applied to a variety of women and girls who use public spaces in Guadalajara and its metropolitan area.

Members of civil society organizations, academia, private sector, local government and technologists were invited to the event to learn more about this area of concern – safety for women and girls in public spaces by observing, engaging with women and girl protagonists and to better understand their experiences and motivations.

According to the scoping study carried out in 2018 by UN Women on the situation of sexual violence against women and girls in public spaces in Guadalajara:

  • 81% of the women surveyed admitted to having suffered some form of sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence at some time in their life while walking at downtown
  • Around 64.5% of women feel unsafe or very unsafe in the public space of Guadalajara
  • For fear of being sexually assaulted or harassed, 82.8% try to walk with someone; and 57.9% have stopped going out at night or very early and a significant percentage (7.6%) claim to have stopped working or studying due to insecurity
  • Only 7.9% of women who were victims of some form of sexual violence reported it. Which means that more than 90% did not report to a public institution. The reasons for not reporting are multiple: 22.6% did not know that they could report; 17% did not report because it was something unimportant and 16.8% responded that they do not trust the authorities.

Brainstorm, prototype, test. Repeat.

On the first day, 24 participants were assigned into four groups, representing four different personas: refugee women, persons with disabilities, indigenous women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, many of them vulnerable in public spaces.

Image

Credit: UN Women and UNICC

The starting point for the groups were the creative solutions proposed at last year’s thinkathon. The groups worked with a design thinking coach who stimulated and guided the participants through the definition of the problem and ideation process, with two rounds of brainstorming and idea selection, using an innovative and collaborative technological platform known as Miro.

Experimenting fast and cheap is one of the pillars of design thinking. The prototypes resulting from this experience are a first approach to solving a real and important need in terms of safe cities for women.

Isabella Stranger Stranger, Design Thinking Coach

The only constraint was that solutions had to be either web-based or mobile apps. Stakeholders such as members of the local government, policy experts or technologists were present to clarify assumptions, and members of UNICC’s Data and Analytics team based in Valencia, Spain, offered support throughout the event.

The second day revolved around prototyping and testing. The returning participants designed low-fidelity prototyping using basic models of examples of the product. Each group was then joined by two real user test volunteers, who identified as the specific persona of each group.

After the testers provided feedback, each group moved from the breakout rooms to the main room for a final team presentation, where all participants were able to learn about each other’s solutions and engage in a fruitful conversation.

Credit: UN Women and UNICC

From a prototype to the app store

While the main goal of last year’s thinkathon and this year’s design thinking workshop was to inform investment in public safety and infrastructure with a gender perspective at the local level, UNICC has committed to developing one of the solutions for UN Women.

The UNICC Data and Analytics team will work together with the organization’s Applications Delivery team to design and deliver a mobile application that includes the most prioritised, applicable and common features that all women mentioned in their proposed prototypes such as emergency calling and alerting.

Guadalajara is home to 1.3 million people with 51.9% being women. As we hold a mirror in front of us today, we give chance to women who are not here with us and to make their voice louder as their champion. Let us open our minds so we could talk about our relationship with public spaces.
The most useful part of our thought process today will be how our design elicits empathy and compassion and will force us to look at technology solutions differently. The experiential and qualitative data along with the prototype we will envision today can change the way women perceive safety issues. Data can play a positive role in changing the way we interact with public spaces. Let us design one Guadalajara at a time
.

Anusha Dandapani, Chief, Data and Analytics Unit, UNICC

Incorporating a gender perspective, along with a responsible, empowering and creative use of technology is a powerful tool to promote gender equality and address violence against women and girls.

UNICC is looking for allies to make the prototypes generated through this design thinking exercise a reality to provide digital solutions for women and girls in Guadalajara and elsewhere.

UN Women and UNICC are making a call to action to educational institutions, the private sector, governments and civil society to contribute to having safe public spaces free of sexual violence and harassment of women and girls. The power of change lies in collaboration and the community. See the UN Women Mexico version of this story in Spanish here.

un women
Photo: UN Women/Amanda Vard

Columbia University – UNICC Thinkathon

Team Agritech wins with its ozone-based disinfection system to address Disaster Preparedness and advance human welfare

Columbia University School of Professional Studies (SPS) and UNICC have collaborated to bring students and alumni together to advance human welfare, accelerate the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and confront the great challenges of our time in the first-ever Columbia University SPS – UNICC Thinkathon. Teams proposed solutions to three social challenges:

  • Gender equality: Using data and technology to address violence against women during and beyond COVID-19
  • Cyber security: Understanding risks that arise from our reliance on the Internet, focusing on regulatory, policymaking and/or technological solutions in areas of Artificial Intelligence, personal data, automatic decision making and victims of data breaches
  • Disaster preparedness: Reporting on the manner in which COVID-19 has impacted vulnerable populations, to inform solutions and strategic planning to recover and reverse deterioration trends.

A summer-long Thinkathon to advance human welfare

Seven teams have been working all summer on real-world solutions with live data, mentored by subject matter area experts from Columbia, the private sector and UN Agencies.

In June, 17 teams of 3 to 5 people submitted their proposals with a statement of interest, with answers to one of the three challenge prompts and optional supporting documents. Among the initial participants there were 45 Columbia University students or alumni from five different schools, with 38 external students or professionals. Up to ten countries on four continents were represented.

Image

A review committee studied the submissions and selected seven final teams that moved forward to the Thinkathon competition. These teams have been working throughout July and August together with expert university, private sector and UN mentors to refine their proposals and final presentations.

Three of the teams selected the Gender Equality challenge, two teams worked on the topic of Disaster Preparedness and the last two teams chose the Cybersecurity challenge. Mentors who provided guidance and support included:

  • Edna Chun, Lecturer, Human Capital Management Department, Columbia University
  • Shouryadipta Sarkar, Information Management Senior Specialist, UNDP
  • Shahryar Shaghaghi, Chief Technology Officer, Quantum Xchange
  • Tima Soni, Chief, Cyber Security Section, UNICC
  • Lizzette Soria, Women’s Policy Expert, Safe Cities, UN
  • Jay Kesavan, Data Science Expert and Partner, Bowery Software.

Final presentation and winners

On 24 August 2021, finalist teams had the opportunity to present their ideas in front of a global audience and a panel of preeminent judges, in a live event that featured initial remarks by Columbia University SPS Senior Associate Dean of Student Affairs Zelon Crawford and presentations from UNICC’s Chief of Data and Analytics Anusha Dandapani and Data Scientist Dishti Gurnani.

Then each team had five minutes for their final pitch, after an introduction by their mentors. The judges had the opportunity to ask follow-up questions. After long deliberation, UNICC’s Chief of Data Analytics Anusha Dandapani announced the winners.

Team Agritech was the first-place winner, receiving a $3,000 cash prize, with its solution of a newly-developed, sustainable, proprietary ozone-based disinfection delivery system to tackle the disaster preparedness challenge. The system addresses the matter of food loss and food safety by dramatically minimising the effect of malicious pathogens on agricultural products across the entire supply chain, while at the same time considerably increasing shelf life of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as seafood, meats and edibles greens.

Our unique ozone delivery system is designed extensively to be applied in the form of dry or wet methods determined by sensitivity, delicateness, fertility of the treated products.

Agritech Team

Logista Emergency Response was the runner-up. Their solution addressed the Disaster Preparedness challenge with a rapidly deployable and scalable field-based logistics system that gives emergency responders accurate, data-driven insights in order to make the right choices when time and resources are in demand. The cash prize for the runner-up team was $2,000.

The audience-chosen team was The Bulb, which was awarded a $1,000 cash prize for their Gender Equality solution of virtual networking against violence. The team proposed a virtual networking solution to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against women. Their solution contains two major networking platforms, a group chat using a popular communications app and a blog site.

The teams were evaluated for their clarity and innovation, the social impact of their solutions, the capital requirements and financial forecast, the viability, both operational and technical, feasibility and sustainability of the solution, as well as the presentation delivery. The panel included the following judges:

  • Pavan Pidugu, Chief Technology Officer, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation
  • Rodrigo Hernan Prado Cordova, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Primus AI, RPA
  • Reda Sadki, President, The Geneva Learning Foundation
  • Ursula Wynhoven, United Nations Representative, International Telecommunications Union
  • Friederike Schüür, Fellow, AI Ethics and Digital Governance, United Nations.

Solutions proposed by other teams were also great:

  • The SafeTeal team proposed an inter-sectional mobile app for gender-based violence prevention and response. The app is intended to engage across the educational space, advocacy circles and the healing space.
  • The Merakhi team also had a solution to the Gender Equality challenge, proposing a smart jewelry and education program.
  • The CV2 team proposed a global, encrypted communications platform to tackle one of the biggest challenges in the cyber security space, by collecting and dispersing information in a timely and secure manner
  • The World ID team proposed a distributed ledger Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) providing digital identity solutions designed to immutably protect sovereign, institutional, and citizen-level data and information, increasing scale and integrity in global information systems.

Thanks to this Thinkathon to advance human welfare, participants have been able to sharpen their critical thinking, problem-solving and communication skills. The challenges have heightened their awareness of global challenges, allowing them to build capacity and share knowledge, and work in collaboration with people with different perspectives.

WHO mYoga App
Credit: UNICC/Al Sawwaf

WHO and UNICC Deliver mYoga App, a Daily Yoga Companion

The World Health Organization, together with the Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India, recently launched the well-received and popular WHO mYoga app.​

Developed by UNICC, the mYoga app has found a global audience with a simple yoga practice platform for the general public. It includes Yoga learning and practice sessions of varying durations. The a​​pp comprises a collection of videos and audio sessions that users can enjoy in the comfort of their homes,​​ and when they wish. It also allows users to download videos in case they wish to watch them offline at their own convenience.

Need an efficient and inexpensive yoga app in a timely fashion? Call on UNICC. Its Application Delivery team helps Clients design, enhance and build mission-critical custom enterprise applications and collaborative solutions.

UNICC has been developing and supporting applications for several years, with solutions and products delivered to its Clients and Partner Organizations, including intranet, extranet and corporate website redesign, custom business application development, application integration, data migration, certificate exchange hubs, mobile apps and more.

The mYoga app is safe and secure, collecting no data from users at all, and can be used as a daily Yoga companion for people aged around 18-65 years. The app is easy-to-use and a free tool for people who are trying yoga for the first time or those who already practice yoga regularly. No special equipment is needed, and users can learn or practice yoga from 3 to 45 minutes, so even busy people can use it to get active, achieve  peace of mind and stay fit.

The app was built using React Native, which is an Open Source cross-platform framework for mobile development. UNICC leverages Amazon AWS for storing the media content (video/audio files). The WHO mYoga app is available for free download on Android devices and Apple devices.

The application currently supports two languages, namely English (default) and Hindi. I will make it available in all six UN languages.

Image

Credit: WHO

The Prime Minister of India expressed his hope that this app will provide help for spreading the practice of Yoga worldwide and will also contribute to the efforts of “One World, One Health.”

The project started in 2019 and the first version of the WHO mYoga App was recently launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi while he was addressing 7th International Yoga Day on Monday, June 21, 2021. UNICC is currently working on the second version where all six UN languages will be available with some improvements.

The mYoga app is an effort to further popularise Yoga. It will also help realise our collective vision of “One World, One Health.

Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India

He also said that this app will be helpful in keeping people healthy during the pandemic. It may have a great role in the re-rehabilitation of the health of the people who have recovered from COVID-19.

Image

Photo: Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi with WHO mYoga App (see story here).

In addition, the WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus shared a Twitter post in June about the App, saying: “Happy #InternationalDayOfYoga! @WHO is very happy to launch a new mYoga App, together with the Government of #India, to help you do yoga at your convenience, especially during #COVID19. Thank you so much, for your support, Prime Minister @narendramodi! Let’s #BeActive!”

The app, recently launched, has already secured a prestigious place in the AppBrain world ranking!

We faced many challenges during the mYoga app development process, but after launching the app and seeing the positive feedback from the users and the prestigious place the app secured quickly in the World Ranking, we felt really thrilled. I believe that self-belief, teamwork and hard work will always earn you success.

Minas al Sawwaf, React Native Developer, UNICC

mYoga Features

  • Viewing and downloading of learning and practice videos
  • Users can view learning and practice videos for the various Yoga training exercises to understand how to perform the exercise. The video once viewed entirely will be marked as “Completed”. In case the user has not finished watching the entire video, it will be marked as “In progress”. User can also download the video if needed for offline viewing. A particular practice video will be enabled only once the relevant learning videos for that practice video have been “Completed”
  • Playing and downloading of audio files
  • Users can listen to the audio clips for a particular practice video for the various Yoga training exercises to understand how to perform the exercise. User can also download the audio if needed for offline listening.
  • Internationalisation: users have the option to switch the language from within the application. The application currently supports two languages namely English (default) and Hindi
  • Audio/Video streaming: users can view the training videos and listen to audio clips using the media player within the app. The application streams the video/audio from Amazon cloud. The media thus streamed is rendered on the device using Amazon Media Convert and Cloud front services. In addition, all the media files are stored centrally inside an Amazon S3 bucket.

WHO mYoga App and the SDGs

The app proposed the concept of Be Healthy, Be Mobile (BHBM) under the United Nations SDG for achieving Universal Health Coverage by the year 2030. BHBM initiative was set up by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in 2012 to support the scaling up of mobile health technology in the National Health Service (NHS) to combat various non-communicable diseases.

The goal of developing the WHO mYoga app is to spotlight the health benefits of yoga that can ease the stress of our modern ‘laptop’ lives. SDG 3 “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” is particularly relevant since yoga improves physical health and general well-being. Other SDGs can also be seen in different aspects. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlights not only the health benefits of the practice but also the sustainable lifestyle it promotes, leading to better harmony between people and the planet.

Photo: Unsplash

UNICC’s CTO Shashank Rai Presents UN Digital ID at Hyperledger Social Impact Special Interest Group

Shashank Rai, UNICC’s Chief Technology Officer presented the UN Digital ID on 27 April at Hyperledger’s Social Impact Special Interest Group.

Hyperledger, hosted by the Linux Foundation, is an open-source collaborative effort created to advance cross-industry blockchain technologies by bringing together leaders and stakeholders in the financial, banking, IoT, supply chain, manufacturing and tech sectors. The Hyperledger effort includes working groups to direct operational aspects of the blockchain enthusiast community as well as special interest groups to support areas of activity the organization supports.

UNICC was invited to present at a Social Impact Special Interest Group session. Shashank delivered a talk on the UN Digital ID to showcase its use of cutting-edge blockchain technology to digitally transform outdated and tedious processes of handling sensitive documents across the UN system.

Digital ID is not your favorite social media or big technology company account. Digital ID brings together all attributes of your identity – social, physical and personal – that are verified by mutually trusted third parties, and which are digitally accessible only with your consent.

Shashank Rai, Chief Technology Officer, UNICC

Shashank introduced the rollout of the UN Digital ID in UNICC’s partnership with the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund (UNJSPF), where the technology developed helps to shortens a UN beneficiary’s pension eligibility case from two months to two minutes.

The Digital Certificate of Entitlement solution, the first UN Digital ID solution in production deployment, uses Hyperledger INDY and Hyperledger ARIES technologies.

The impact of the UN Digital ID, demonstrated by the 6,000 registered beneficiaries for the UNJSPF Digital Certificate of Entitlement solution since its launch three months ago, was well received by the Hyperledger audience – many attendees and participants were impressed to see blockchain technology be implemented in an innovative and effective solution.

Shashank’s presentation illustrates UNICC’s strategic partnership with Hyperledger as well as UNICC’s position as an Associate Member of the not-for-profit for blockchain technology innovation group.

Image

See also the UN Digital Solutions Centre video on UN Digital ID at https://youtu.be/1sSBAWwKGiQ.