Innovation in Action


For several years, UNDP has been driving for innovation in the development arena. We recognise that in an increasingly complex world where development challenges are continuously emerging and changing, there is an urgent need to move away from business as usual and respond with agile and flexible solutions.

From human-centred design to improve service delivery to strategic foresight that enhances planning processes; from innovation labs that incubate and test ideas to behavioural insights and user led designs that create citizen-government feedback loops, our innovations represent the next generation of development solutions. 

Below are some of the highlights from 2016, and scroll down for projects from earlier years. 


BANGLADESH - crowdfunding & mobile education

The Youth Employment through Skills (YES) programme transform unemployed youth to freelancers by teaching them basic IT skills, and the first mobile classroom has been successfully crowd-funded in December!more 

NEPAL - virtual reality

Virtual reality is booming, and it can be applied for development too. Check out the newly released Ground Beneath Her, a VR film that takes you into the continuing devastation of Nepal's 2015 earthquake. Download the UNVR app to watch it now.more 

CHINA - big data & interactive map

Big data has been utilized to provide dynamic information for measuring and tracking poverty across China. A report has been launched to introduce the data-driven Living Standards Index and an interactive map made it easier for the public to navigate.more 

INDONESIA - social finance

Social or innovative finance addresses inequality by helping the rich help the poor. UNDP Indonesia has published a blog on LSE Business Review, explaining how social finance is becoming the new frontier for development in the country. more 

BANGLADESH - app challenge

Launched in August, after a couple months' calling for application and another month of judging of hundreds of proposals, the winners of the app challenge for youth in Bangladesh is finally out!more 


The winners of the 2016 Big Ideas Competition for Sustainable Cities and Urban Communities was announced in June. Launched in May, the initiative solicited data-driven innovative solutions that are cost efficient and easy for cities to implement.more 

VIET NAM - social innovation camp

UNDP Viet Nam has strengthened partnership with the start-up incubator HATCH! VENTURES to further facilitate youth innovative action for social good in Viet Nam. A social innovation camp will take place in August.more 

INDONESIA - design thinking

Makassar in Indonesia is working on a smart way to improve public transport: listening to its citizens. A three-day workshop for different actors used design thinking techniques to find the best solutions.more 

SEOUL - new partnership

UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub has partnered up with the Seoul Metropolitan Government on a new initiative for the region, known as the City-I-LEAPS, to facilitate City Innovation through Learning, Exchanging, Adapting, Prototyping and Scaling.more 

MALDIVES - social innovation camp

Miyaheli Social Innovation Camp, the first of its kind in the Maldives, was successfully wrapped up. The reaction from the youth was overwhelmingly enthusiastic: over 100 ideas received, and over 100 applications to assist the 5 selected ideas. more 

THAILAND - incubation

For the past 9 months, UNDP Thailand solicited more than 20 expert mentors from 23 partner organizations to incubate winning teams of young innovators from last September's Social Innovation for Disaster Risk Reduction camp. The final products were presented to the public in June.more 

SRI LANKA - foresight

The First National Summit on Foresight and Innovations in Sri Lanka brought together more than 200 participants from the different sectors and enabled a constructive and holistic national dialogue to envision the way forward to achieve sustainable human development in the country.more 

INDONESIA - crowdfunding

UNDP Indonesia’s first ever crowdfunding initiative “Bring Water for Life” successfully reached its target of IDR 350 million (USD 25,000). All funds collected from almost 400 donators will be used to build a solar-powered water pump system, to provide clean water access for a remote village.more 

MALDIVES - UAV/ drones

In the Maldives, together with partners DJI & WeRobotics, a scoping mission was carried out to explore how aerial robotics technology can enable innovative adaptations to climate change, improved environmental management and enhanced resilience to natural disasters. more 

Drawing inspiration from 2015


As we plot the innovation cycle for the year ahead, it’s an ideal juncture to draw lessons and inspiration from the past year that has kept UNDP innovators around the region busy. We have seen some exciting achievements from the winners of our 2015 Innovation Fund from mobile apps that connect rural women in Myanmar, to hackathons that inspire tech-savvy youth in Sri Lanka, from data management for climate change in Indonesia, to scaling successful prototypes for system level innovations in China and the Maldives

The Fund is only a part of a greater endeavour, serving as simply a catalyst. We have been happy to see innovation embraced more organically in the way we work, for example after the deadly Nepal Earthquake, when UNDP Nepal partnered with Microsoft to develop an app that enabled efficient debris management and ensured timely and accurate payments in the massive cash for work programme.

And that’s not all, we also stepped up our innovation efforts through the Innovation Ambassadors initiative. We now have a distributed resource capacity for innovation in the region and our iAmbassadors are helping tease out the innovation ninjas in our work across COs.

Below are our 2015 highlights!

MYANMAR - human-centred design

iWomen app is developed with Human-Centred Design approach, and seeks to inspire, foster self-belief, and channel peer support for rural women to become leaders in their communities. more 

CHINA - big data, scale-up

This is the award winning Mark II avatar of our Baidu Recycle prototype from 2014. It’s so far been used to collect and dispose of 11,429 electronic items that would have otherwise ended up in the trash. It was a winner at the Solutions Summit, and a semifinalist of the MIT Climate CoLab Global Contest.more 

VIET NAM - videos, comics, social media

The #HowAbnormal campaign uses a series of videos and comics featuring scenarios where gender roles are flipped, and it’s going a long way in combating gender stereotypes in Viet Nam. People may sign the pledge to stand for gender equality on the Facebook page.more 

INDONESIA - data collection & visualization

Do-It-Yourself Survey Application for Monitoring (DIY-SAM) is an affordable, reliable, and highly scalable survey tool that aims to enhance the efficiency and accuracy of information collection. DIY-SAM makes it dramatically easier to gather, analyze, and share data using a smartphone or tablet.more 

NEPAL - data management for DRR

After the deadly Nepal Earthquake, UNDP Nepal partnered with Microsoft to offer a mobile app that would speed up the rebuilding effort and ensure timely payment. The app that has emerged can be adapted and deployed to aid in any disaster recovery across the world.more 

From Success in 2014 to Scaling Up in 2015

Click to enlarge

2014 has been a busy year for innovators at UNDP. With the support of the internal Innovation Fund, sixteen ideas were rapidly prototyped and tested across Asia and the Pacific, offering solutions that challenge business as usual.

The Fund offers a creative space to experiment – with agile pilot projects through prototyping, scaling up, monitoring and communicating the impact of innovative solutions.

These initiatives cover a variety of thematic areas such as citizen engagement in public policy, gender-based violence, disaster risk reduction, youth unemployment, and environmental protection. The methods employed range from mobile app creation to crowdsourcing, gamification, behavioural insights and user centered design. 

The inventions making the region better, smarter and - in some cases - a little more fun.

The success of many of the prototypes and the generation of new and non-traditional partnerships and the media attention generated contributed to UNDP’s positioning as a go to partner for innovation in the region. 



Projects in Photos




Featured projects

  • Nepal: Idea Factory empowers micro entrepreneurship

    Idea Factory Nepal is a technology solution catered especially for the Micro Entrepreneurs (MEs) across the country. With the sole motive of empowering the MEs and broadening the scope of their hard work, the Idea Factory offers a web based solution decomposed into the ‘Nepali.Market’ and ‘IdeaStoreNepal’.more 

  • Bangladesh: Bus Data for Dhaka

    Traffic congestion is a huge issue in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, and the reliability of public transportation is one of the biggest concerns of commuters. Soon, a smartphone mobile app called "GoTraffic" will tell citizens in Dhaka who take buses how long it will take to travel to their destination. more 

  • Sri Lanka: Unlocking the potential of youth

    Combining the youth and innovations work, UNDP Sri Lanka has launched an online blog space for young Sri Lankans to raise their voice, and also hosted two social innovation hackathons where hundreds technologically savvy young Sri Lankans met up to develop creative solutions for social problems.more 

  • Bhutan: Bringing Parliament to People - virtually

    In Bhutan, UNDP, together with government partners, is developing a Virtual Zomdu (a meeting of residents of villages) based on video conferencing technology, in order to connect parliamentarians and citizens across the mountainous terrains of the country. Virtual Zomdus would provide an opportunity for constituents to find out about the work of their representatives in parliament and share their views and priorities.more 

  • Papua New Guinea: Phones against corruption

    Corruption has severely impacted and derailed the development of Papua New Guinea, but the “Phones Against Corruption” initiative has made anonymous revealation of corrupt practices possible: two public officials have been arrested for fund mismanagement of more than 2 million US dollars, and five more are waiting for court decisions, and approximately other 250 cases are being investigated. more 

  • Indonesia: One-stop web application to deliver service

    "One Click Web System" is an integrated business solution to speed up the delivery of common services of UNDP Indonesia. Featuring functions like online request system, automated billing, service tracking, online feedback form etc, it has significantly improved productivity since implementation. more 

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