End Violence and UNICEF Innovation Fund invest in tech start-ups to protect kids

Online

A girl looks at her mobile phone.

End Violence has teamed up with the UNICEF Innovation Fund and Giga to make up to $100,000 equity-free investments in early stage, for-profit start-ups working to make the internet safer for children.

“We are excited to partner with UNICEF Venture Fund and jointly work to promote development of open-source tools that can make digital environments safe for children and adolescents,” said Marija Manojlovic, Safe Online Lead at End Violence. “We are hoping that this collaboration will result in a set of open-source tools and solutions that can adapted, shared and scaled and which will ultimately make children across the globe safe online.”

We are hoping that this collaboration will result in a set of open-source tools and solutions that can adapted, shared and scaled and which will ultimately make children across the globe safe online.

Marija Manojlovic, Safe Online Lead at End Violence

By investing in companies that use machine learning, artificial intelligence, blockchain or extended reality technology, together, we will respond to the most pressing challenges facing children online. Such investments are critical in a COVID-19 world, where in some countries, internet usage has gone up by 50 per cent.

As the classroom and the workplace shifted online, so too did violence: data suggests that COVID-19 has increased rates of online sexual exploitation, cyberbullying, children’s exposure to harmful content, and the use and sharing of data. While these risks have increased, child safeguarding and protections online have remained inadequate, leaving children, families and education systems little chance to prevent and respond to such harms.

To address these challenges, our early stage investments will focus on tackling four risks facing children online, including:

  • Content risks: age-inappropriate content, pornography, violence, discriminatory or hateful content, extremism or content that endorses risky or unhealthy behaviours
  • Contact risks: child sexual exploitation, grooming, stalking, sextortion, blackmail, and harassment
  • Conduct risks: bullying, sexting, revenge porn, data misuse, financial abuse, and inappropriate behaviour
  • Contract risks: children’s consent online

As the lead technical partner, End Violence will provide programmatic expertise for the sourcing, selection and portfolio management of this cohort, and leverage our networks across the child online protection ecosystem to capitalise on impact. This work builds on four years of protecting children online, including our latest $10 million investment into 14 projects centred on ending online sexual exploitation. In total, we have invested $44 million to reach girls and boys in over 50 countries across the world.

“Though this partnership, we will address this gap by leveraging each other’s networks and expertise: with End Violence Safe Online team bringing in the technical knowledge on child online protection and an ever-growing network of Safe Online grantees, and UNICEF Venture Fund bringing in the funding, expertise and unique approach of financing early stage, open-source technology that can benefit children,” said Manojlovic.

Applications are open until 20 December 2020.

Learn more and apply.

CRITERIA

We are looking for start-ups using machine learning, artificial intelligence, blockchain or extended reality, are registered in one of UNICEF’s programme countries, and have a working, open source prototype (or you are willing to make it open source) showing promising results. Female-founded start-ups are encouraged to apply.

Learn more about the criteria.

ABOUT OUR PARTNERS

Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children

End Violence is the largest and most diverse public-private coalition focused on accelerating progress towards SDG 16.2: ending all forms of violence against children by 2030. It acts as a global platform for evidence-based advocacy, action and investments. Through Safe Online, End Violence is making investments in organisations designing tools, programmes and technology solutions to tackle online child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA), as well as working with global leaders and organisations to ensure a continued focus on child online safety, placing it high in key global policy debates.

UNICEF’s Innovation Fund

Launched in 2016, the Fund is specifically designed to finance early stage, open-source technology that can benefit children. The core motivation of the Innovation Fund is to identify “clusters” or portfolios of initiatives around emerging technology - so that UNICEF can both share markets and also learn about and guide these technologies to benefit children. We invest in solutions clusters around $100 billion industries in frontier technology spaces, such as: blockchain, virtual and augmented reality, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.

Giga

An initiative launched by UNICEF and ITU in September 2019 to connect every school to the Internet and every young person to information, opportunity and choice, is supporting the immediate response to COVID19, as well as looking at how connectivity can create stronger infrastructures of hope and opportunity in the "time after COVID."