Erica Kochi

Technology, design, and international development

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Erica Kochi Biography

Erica Kochi co-founded and co-leads UNICEF’s Innovation Unit, a group tasked with identifying, prototyping and scaling technologies and practices that improve UNICEF’s work on the ground. Erica also serves as Innovation Advisor to UNICEF’s Executive Director. Working with partners in private sector, academia, and international development, the Innovation Unit supports UNICEF’s 135+ country offices in the practical application of design and technology to strengthen international development outcomes.

UNICEF Innovation has recognized success in innovative design of international development solutions. Erica was named to the TIME 100 “World’s Most Influential People” List in 2013. Other examples of this work include the Digital Drum, recognized by Time Magazine as one of the Top 50 inventions of 2011, gold and silver International Design Excellence (IDSA) Awards, a Red Hat prize for being one of the three top open source projects, and the award-winning RapidSMS - a system that uses basic mobile phones and SMS messages to communicate with front-line workers and improve the speed and quality of data collection and health and education services.

Since 2007, UNICEF Innovation has worked with partners to develop open source technologies that have registered 7 million births in Nigeria over 15 months and provided antenatal care to thousands of pregnant women across Rwanda. These systems are built on a set of principles, such as collaboration and learning from fast failures, that have informed successes such as the tracking of the distribution of more than 25 million insecticide treated mosquito nets and providing a direct feedback loop for more than 180,000 young Ugandans to engage with their government and change policy in real time.

Erica worked with the Commission for Macroeconomics and Health, a joint collaboration between the World Bank and the World Health Organization, and developed and executed UNICEF global communication strategies for immunization, child survival and avian influenza and pandemic preparedness.

Erica co-taught ‘Design for UNICEF’ at NYU’s ITP with Clay Shirky. She has lectured at the Yale School of Management, Harvard University, The Art Center, Stanford University School of Engineering, and Columbia School of International and Public Affairs on technology, innovation, design and international development.