UNDP Egypt launched an Innovation for Development Lab (I4D Lab) in 2014 as a response to the growing complexities of local development challenges and encouraging innovation to tackle them. Through the I4D Lab, UNDP Egypt explores, tests, applies and scales up new innovation trends, approaches and methods applied in development practice. It works on enabling the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), fostering entrepreneurship and social innovation, as well as job creation. It also targets various other issues such as illiteracy eradication, e-health, the socio-economic empowerment of women in rural areas, and of persons with disabilities in Egypt.
Through the I4D Lab, UNDP works closely with youth, persons with disabilities, women and low-income communities with the purpose of empowering them to become agents of change. In addition to engaging local partners such as government institutions, the private sector, civil society organizations, academia and most importantly citizens in innovative processes. We are consolidating our role in knowledge sharing, capacity building, as well as our work with various actors ranging from public and private sector, to civil society organizations and young entrepreneurs.
Innovation and Gender Equality
Promoting gender equality is crucial to accelerating sustainable development, and doing so through innovation is key. Believing in the importance of empowering and promoting the social and economic inclusion of all, while ensuring the availability of equal opportunities and the reduction of inequalities, UNDP is planning on expanding and building on the previous achievements of ‘the Jobs and skills for PwDs with a focus on ICT-based solutions’ project (2014-2016)— total budget 350,000 USD— during the upcoming second phase—estimated budget USD 250,000. It is worth noting that the project contributed to— in collaboration with the ICT Trust Fund, and International Labor Organization (ILO)— supporting the labor market inclusion of PwDs through the use of ICT solutions, with a specific focus on the ICT and tourism sector. The project developed accessible training materials and provided trainings for 600 visually and/ or physically impaired women and men aged 18 to 35 years in 6 targeted governorates. Also, its capacity building targeted training and employment service providers as well as employers meant to facilitate PwDs employment opportunities in the labor market. (SDGs 5, 8 and 10)
Promoting gender equality through STEM and innovation is instrumental. In partnership with Microsoft Egypt and the Egyptian Ministry of Youth, ‘the Masr Works Youth Centers’ project — total USD 1.2 million— allows youth to access various employability services either online or through the 50 Youth Centers providing YouthSpark Employability services. Since its inception, the project created/resulted in more than 100,000 job opportunities, more than 1,400 employers, more than 90,000 youths receiving career advising sessions, and 415,889 youths were trained on technological tools, CS, employability and entrepreneurial skills (of which 55% Women Participants). (SDGs 4, 5 and 8)
In the same vein, the first ‘Social Innovation Hub’ was launched at the National Council for Women (NCW)— total budget USD 250,000, aiming to empower young talented women to achieve more through technology. UNDP has partnered with Microsoft in the creation of the Hub, to address the gender gap in Egypt through fostering innovation and entrepreneurship among young women. The hub aims to reach 5,000 young women in Egypt – to expose them to computer science for the first time, to bridge the gap between public education, and job market needs, and to foster employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for young women developers. The Hub was launched with the presence of Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, in January 2016, while meeting with some of the young women already utilizing technology to develop solutions. The Social Innovation Hub is part of Microsoft’s ‘Aspire Woman’ Initiative that aims to empower young women leaders of the future, and is initially open in Cairo, expanding to four other regions in Egypt including Ismailia, Aswan, Luxor, and Alexandria (2 in Cairo and 1 in Ismailia). To date 49 young women have received training and 11 startups were created accordingly. (SDGs 4, 5 and 8)
Innovation and Poverty Reduction
Egypt’s flagship report, the Egyptian Human Development Report (EHDR), eagerly awaited by all key stakeholders for guidance on how and where to move next with development plans and policies, has traditionally been prepared by top notch consultants adopting the typical focus group and survey approach for data-collection. In the 2015 edition on Social Justice, UNDP Egypt decided to renovate that process, and complement the technical expertise of those consultants by tapping into the experiences and creativity of non-traditional consultants; Egyptian youth (young university students and graduates).
UNDP in partnership with Misr El Kheir Foundation, organized a two- day ‘Youth Social Justice Innovation Camp’ at the Greek Campus in Cairo on 7-8 November 2014. The camp provided a platform for young Egyptians to share their understanding of social justice, as well as to work together on developing innovative solutions for the issues identified.
Thirty public university students and graduates participated in the two-day camp and looked into causes of social injustice such as accessibility of public services, access to knowledge and unequal application of the law to citizens. The participants also worked on designing ‘out of the box’ solutions such as alternative methods of education, inclusive community centres promoting innovation and creativity, as well as a mobile application for reporting poor public infrastructure.
Innovation and Local Economic Development
During a 5-day social innovation camp, youth from all over the country gathered to co-design their own innovative solutions to improve the livelihood of fishermen in Fayoum through the use of human-centered design. 45 young women and men used design thinking to innovate in the camp organized by UNDP, supported by GESR, a local social innovation lab, and the Ministry of Local Development in launching the “Innovate for Fayoum” challenge. They had the opportunity to speak to the Chief of Fishermen and observe, engage and interview the community of fishermen, their families, public fish markets, and the authority responsible for the fish stocking process. Teams came up with exciting solutions such as an aquaponics system, technologies to improve the fish stocking process, innovative designs for household sewage systems, recycling fish waste and efficient tools for shrimp peeling.