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50 Youth Help UNICEF Visualize “Urgency” in Prototype Media Innovation

Avatar Joe @unicefgis
Member since September 7, 2013
  • 5 Posts

“All kinds of pets, including dogs, cats, birds, etc. are sold here along with meat from butcher shops. The sanitation conditions are horrid and the animals are kept in cruel conditions. Moreover keeping raw meat next to domesticated animals presents a huge sanitation and health issue.” – Aown K., 19 years, World Wildlife Foundation

See more photographs in Voices of Youth Urgency Rank Prototype Tester Gallery:

How can we measure the urgency of environmental problems in our community?

Over the past few months we've asked young people between the age of 18 and 25 to help us test out a new feature to UNICEF’s mapping platform – which ­visualizes the severity of citizen reports. Fifty youth innovato­­rs from over 40 different countries volunteered their time to test out the Urgency Rank Prototype. Each person was tasked with uploading at least one report of an environmental hazard in their communities, complete with photos, descriptions and tags, in categories such as water, sanitation, garbage and natural resources.

How did we choose the ranking of each report? A final system is still developing, but with a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight foundation we were able to prototype an automatic filter and rank system based on the experience of our mapping in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Port-au-Prince Haiti. The urgency score of each report is based on the tags attached by the mapper. The prototype was developed to help resolve the issue of prioritizing the amounts of data being received in countries such as Brazil – where the youth digital mapping initiative has been expanding each year, resulting in high volumes of reports.

For the testing of the prototype, tags were assigned values by the UNICEF team, but the idea is that in an actual mapping implementation tags will be assigned point values by a local disaster risk reduction experts before the mapping begins. Then, when a report is then submitted to the system, the Urgency Rank adds up the value of all tags attached, and the resulting final score determines its severity level (read more on how it works). The prototype was built in collaboration with InSTEDD iLab Latin America and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Mobile Experience Lab.

When we completed the prototype development in July, a call for Voices of Youth ‘testers’ went out on social media, and out of over 300 applications 50 youth were selected to help UNICEF test out the Urgency Rank. The top applying countries were Nigeria, Kenya and Indonesia and the average age of participants was 21 years old.

All the testers were motivated by their passion and ability to use social media and advocate for an improved community environment. These young people not only proved that the Urgency Rank's system is simple to understand and use, but they demonstrated its future in strengthening civic engagement and community resilience.

Thanks to our young innovators, the Urgency Rank has secured its place in the new UNICEF-GIS 3.0 being deployed next month in our Voices of Youth Maps programs in Brazil and Argentina.

See the Flickr image gallery for of our favorite urgency rank photos from the last two months ( and then check out the prototype map (

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