The Youth in Rio Have Been Digitally Empowered by UNICEF

Posted by on July 18, 2013 in Entrepreneurship, South America, Tech

Usually, when government officials set out to survey a poor urban neighbourhood for data on disaster risks, the job can be impossible. The official arrives in the community with their clipboard to investigate the needs and that’s where things can start to unravel; as initial conversations with the community results in emotional confrontation seeped in a history of conflict and limited development. Last but not least, the youth, the next generation, are excluded from the local debate and have a very limited say in how their environment is managed and shaped.

To solve these issues and more, UNICEF has pioneered digital maps created by youngsters to establish a collaborative space for municipal government and community to work together towards safer neighbourhoods. UNICEF has discovered that given the proper digital media training and tools, local young people can be influential and effective drivers to activate their community and create change to reduce risk of disaster in poor urban neighbourhoods.

Over the past eighteen months in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil and Port-au-Prince, Haiti, UNICEF has empowered the local youth here to create new media maps that show the exact location of disaster risks in a way that compels action and enables youth-led public advocacy. The maps and digital stories become both real evidence and a rallying point for the community, government and civil society to come together and take action. Youth reports have already led to bridges being fixed, flood walls reinforced, and playgrounds cleared of stagnant water and rotting garbage. Moreover, the turnaround time for fixing hazards has improved and these youngsters become committed advocates on behalf of their communities.

This UNICEF solution toolkit was developed with the MIT Mobile Experience and Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science. It uses a smartphone app which allows the youngsters to collect and share location sensitive reports in a simple, private and secure manner. The app creates a map of all reports filtered by type of hazards and risks, which become a social monitoring and evaluation tool for governments to track their disaster risk reduction activities. To increase public attention to their reports, the youth workshop curriculum contains a module on digital journalism.

The young people in Rio who have been taught digital mapping techniques to better illustrate the problems facing their communities and have created maps that clearly show which parts of the community need improving, with better sanitation and sewage infrastructure, and provide a starting point for resolutions.

Photo Credit: Unicef Voices of Youth Maps

– See more at:

By Sangeeta Haindl


Justmeans is the world’s leading source of information and connections for the sustainable business industry. Founded in 2008, the company rapidly grew its online community of practitioners, investors, journalists, activists, and students to 250,000 registered users. A wide variety of companies rely on Justmeans news distribution services to create, distribute, and analyze performance on media releases related to social and environmental performance. Justmeans is also the publisher of the Social Innovation Awards and a number of leading conferences in the sustainable business industry.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook - YouTube

Leave a Comment