The UN Foundation and Vodafone Partnership

July 29, 2011 By Silky Kadakia

Since 2004, the UN Foundation and Vodafone have been working together to build support for public-private partnerships and increase awareness of mobile technology capabilities. Recently, the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) hosted a discussion evaluating the partnership and the published report entitled “Mobilizing Development” that explains their work.

According to Kathy Calvin, CEO of the UN Foundation, though private enterprises and public sectors are seemingly different, when brought together for the right cause, they can change the quality of global health and humanitarian assistance. These sentiments expressing the power of mobilizing technology and private-public partnerships are echoed on many fronts.

Calvin explained that the UN-Vodafone alliance focuses on two messages: “Private sector and the public sector did not need to stand in opposition but each could be more effective by harnessing their mutual strengths” and “Increasing recognition of the value and power of mobile technology for social good.”

The partnership’s focus on mobile health and emergency communication has shown results in numerous countries in South America, Asia, and Africa. With mobile health, simple tasks such as reminders for appointments and directions for complicated medicine can be given through mobile devices. In addition, mobilized data collection helped monitor data from different regions in the country as well as allowed the government to make policy decisions on the basis of actual evidence and numbers. Furthermore, global health is now expanding to include mobile diagnostics and surveillance of immunizations.

The power of mobile technology grows with each day. As new technology emerges, mobile health can improve lives and change circumstances throughout the world. The report disclosed impressive statistics explaining that “close to 90% of the world’s populations now has access to mobile signal, including 80% of people in rural areas.” At the end of 2010, 70% of the developing world had access to a mobile phone. Mobile technology reaches 5.3 billion people throughout the world, of which, 3.5 billion reside in low or moderate income countries. The expansive accessibility of mobile technology leads it to be an effective tool to improve development efforts and global health.

The UN Foundation and Vodafone Foundation partnership is a great example of the successes that can come from a private enterprise working with the public sector. The UN Foundation hopes to create more of these alliances by implementing an outside/inside platform, which matches interested companies with UN affiliated organizations to establish an appropriate partnership for a relevant cause.