Photo: Esglobal

UNICC’s Director Brings UN Perspective to a Debate on Technology and the SDGs

Digital Solutions at the Service of Multilateralism: New Tools for the Agenda 2030, Human Rights and Peace

The United Nations is celebrating its 75th anniversary and around the world, UN organizations, Member States and civil society are commemorating this achievement. 

On 22 October, the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation and the digital media platform Esglobal organised a debate on ‘Technology at the Service of Multilateralism: New Tools for the Agenda 2030, Human Rights and Peace.’

Across the system, whether it is health, women’s rights, children, peacekeeping or refugees, every single UN Agency needs to be much more innovative now, use technology effectively and make sure we are consistent in how we build solutions that have to scale to avoid duplication.

Sameer Chauhan, Director, UNICC

UNICC’s Director Sameer Chauhan was invited as a panellist, together with Daniel Couture, Chief Information Officer of UNICEF; Cristina Gallach, Spanish Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and for Ibero-America and the Caribbean; Nuria Simó, CIO and General Manager of the Department of Information Technology at the Inter-American Development Bank; Salem Avan,  UN’s Director of Strategy, Policy and Governance Division and Raquel Jorge, Fulbright fellow at the Elliot School of International Affairs . The debate was moderated by Cristina Manzano, Director of Esglobal.  

All participants shared thoughts, practices and experiences on how to promote the use of new technologies to achieve the SDGs. As Director of UNICC, the UN organization that develops and provides shared digital business solutions to the UN family, Sameer had a unique insight into current needs and acceleration trends in technology adoption across the system.

Applying technology to any of the SDGs leads to a multiplying effect. Technology and the success of the 2030 Agenda are absolutely linked. 

Cristina Gallach

Every UN Agency is exploring how to better deliver on their missions and mandates, working more digitally and more effectively to produce measurable results. Sameer stressed the importance of data. Good data collection and analysis can help to make the smart decisions and determine where to direct resources. 

Technology is instrumental to understand where we are, to measure our current state, to predict and understand what will happen going forward and how what we do today impact our effectiveness with respect to the SDGs. 

Salem Avan, UN’s Director of Strategy, Policy and Governance Division

The conversation moved into the topic of diversity, a key aspect to counteract the inequalities in access to technology and a crucial element to take into account when developing innovative technologies in a multilateral system. 

Panellists also talked about the role of the private sector in supporting the UN’s endeavours to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Sameer explained UNICC’s capacity to collect digital business requirements across the UN system, consolidate and bring them to the private sector, as it has already done with some of the biggest tech companies, such as Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, ServiceNow and UiPath for Robotic Process Automation.

We have seen three years of growth in just three months. When COVID-19 hit, we realized immediately that everyone needed to adopt digital processes while keeping face-to-face levels of trust, and ensure staff acquired the necessary digital skills.

Sameer Chauhan, Director, UNICC

This debate is just one of many events organised by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation in collaboration with several partners to commemorate the UN’s 75th anniversary. The next roundtable will be on 25 November about the future of the UN in a globalised world.

Photo: UNICC

106th Management Committee Meeting Highlights UNICC’s Role in the UN’s Accelerating Digital Adoption

Partner Organizations Approve Four New UNICC Services 

UNICC’s Management Committee (MC), the organization’s governance body, met fully virtually on Monday 19 and Wednesday 21 October 2020 for the second session of 2020. 

The MC, comprised of representatives from forty Partner Organizations, shares responsibility with UNICC’s Director for key decisions, providing guidance for the organization’s strategic direction and approving the Centre’s budget, financial reports and services rates.

On the first day, the sessions covered statutory business, presented new service offerings and shared recent audit certifications. UNICC’s Director Sameer Chauhan followed with the Director’s Update, highlighting some of the successes of the organization over the past six months and discussing some upcoming near-term initiatives.

An interactive discussion on technology trends and UN needs, including services and solutions like secure chat, multi-cloud connect and a UN private cloud, was the focus of the second day. 

Participants also had the opportunity to hear from two new senior management staff. UNICC’s Chief of Digital Solutions, Ninna Roco, who is also part of the UNICC Transformation Team shared the organization’s digital business solutions offerings and how they are helping various partners in their digital transformation. 

UNICC’s Chief of Data and Analytics, Anusha Dandapani, presented the new Data and Analytics programme, with an emphasis on advanced analytics and machine learning, aligned to the Data Strategy of the Secretary General’s Strategy for Action by Everyone, Everywhere.

UNICC’s Unique Value Proposition for Digital Solutions. Credit: UNICC
Data and Analytics services snapshots. Credit: UNICC

Four New Services Added to UNICC’s Service Catalogue

On the first day of the meeting, the Management Committee also approved four new services that were added to UNICC’s service catalogue of more than forty service areas, available to all Clients and Partners. The new services include:

  • ServiceNow Enterprise Service Management Shared Platform – Includes design, development, deployment and operations. Configured to best match business context for UNICC Clients, through a proven partnership with ServiceNow. 
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) Affiliates Enterprise Support Services – Allows Clients with either a direct agreement or through UNICC to receive AWS Enterprise Support in a shared model, splitting costs for the highest level of support at the lowest cost.
  • Secure AuthN Service –  Supports inter-organizational authentication to applications and platforms. This service allows organizations to link their Active Directory to AuthN to then register as many apps as they wish to use for authentication, with no compromises on security. 
  • Electronic Signature Services – integrates DocuSign electronic signature services into corporate processes to increase efficiency by automating signature workflows, eliminating errors and risk by integrating the service into systems of record. 

Ad Hoc Session on Cyber Security 

The Management Committee met again on Tuesday 27 October for a two-hour, ad-hoc session on Cyber Security, as requested by the Partners during April’s 105th Management Committee. The session was widely attended by Chief Information Officers (CIOs) as well as invited Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) of Partner Organizations. 

UNICC presented two proposals, both of which were adopted by the Management Committee:

  • Partner Organizations agree to share all timely threat intelligence with UNICC. UNICC to leverage the Common Secure Threat Intel Network service to distribute this threat intelligence across the entire UN System.
  • Vulnerability Management timelines for security and application patching in a timely and standardized fashion.

The Management Committee meeting highlighted UNICC’s role in the UN’s accelerating digital adoption and its continued support for Clients and Partner Organizations during the new work paradigms of the COVID pandemic. 

It featured updates from UNICC’s Executive Committee and UNICC Transformation Team attesting to the state of good health and innovative plans for the future as UNICC celebrates its fiftieth birthday in January 2021.

Photo: ITU

UNICC Is One of Twenty Winners in ITU’s Innovation Challenge

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), in its 2020 Innovation Challenge, recognized UNICC for its design, development and delivery of the UN Digital Academy

UNICC was among nine winners in the category of ‘Ecosystem Best Practices,’ which showcased ‘ecosystem builders with good practices that nurture an enabling environment for innovators in their communities’. As an ecosystem builder, UNICC and Microsoft provide a shared platform for digital learning and capacity development for UN Agency personnel. The UN Digital Academy is one example of how UNICC delivers training and instructional material curated for member UN Agencies in a non-profit model. It offers courses in English, French and Spanish.

The UN Digital Academy is a joint effort between UNICC and Microsoft’s Tech for Social Impact group. It helps to keep UN personnel up to date in their areas of digital business expertise. It offers role-based learning tracks for general and technical subjects in the ever-changing Microsoft cloud, from Microsoft 365 tools and accessibility to Azure certification tracks on data and artificial intelligence along with Power BI and Power Apps. 

With teleworking as the norm amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Academy also helps staff to get up to speed on the latest virtual collaboration and productivity tools. The project is fully-launched and will continue to adapt and change over time, as new training content, user experience improvements, and potentially new tech partners take part in its vision and scope.

Winning ideas in the ecosystem building category came from a diversity of countries – Egypt, Indonesia, Moldova, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Russia, Serbia and the United States – in the challenge subcategories of ‘building innovation capacity,’ ‘guiding innovation dynamics’ and ‘integrating ICT innovation in key sectors.’

The UN Digital Academy helps to foster and deepen the United Nation’s internal capacities in digital innovation and transformation, in support of the UN Secretary-General’s Strategy on New Technologies.

UNICC is honoured to be among the 20 winners overall, including the categories of ‘Digital Change-Makers’ and ‘Women in Technology.’ Organized by ITU, EQUALS and INPUT Hungary, the challenge ran from May to August, and a jury of 12 experts selected the winning initiatives in September. 

In October, the winners went through a preparation phase, had a chance to meet each other at a series of virtual innovation boot camps and participate in the Global Innovation Forum at the end of the month. The Forum is a five-day immersive programme that takes the participants on global and regional learning journeys to prepare them to accelerate digital transformation in their communities.

Bill Allen, UNICC Communications Officer, made the bid to the challenge in the make of the whole UNICC and Microsoft UN Digital Academy team, and Franca Vinci, Head, Learning Services took up the baton and participated in the Global Innovation Challenge.

What made the UN Digital Academy one of this year winning ideas is its unique value propositon of responding to the UN’s need to prepare and adapt to the future of work by enabling adaptation, innovation and growth.

Photo: UN DSC

UN Digital ID – A Building Block for UN Digital Cooperation

A UN DSC Award-Winning Solution Using Blockchain, Biometrics and Mobile

Digital transformation is changing the way the United Nations manages its data, information, interactions and identities online. The UN Digital Solutions Centre (UN DSC), in keeping with its ‘agile solutions for a modern UN system’ has developed an innovative digital identity solution for UN personnel.

The UN DSC, a pilot project of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), with operational support from UNICC, aims to create a suite of digital solutions that can be shared among UN Agencies to transform common business operations and streamline time-consuming transactional tasks.

In the spirit of emerging technologies supporting the UN Secretary-General’s Strategy on New Technologies, the UN Digital ID is harnessing blockchain, biometrics and mobility, making UN identity verification efficient, secure, transparent, immutable, portable and universal.

The UN Digital ID is a digital wallet for UN personnel, for their personal, Human Resources, medical, travel, security, payroll and pension data kept over time, from onboarding into the UN to parting or retirement.

This solution helps to solve the problem of data fragmentation, helping the UN system streamline information sharing, daily workflows and access to platforms and buildings, facilitating operations across Agencies.

The technology behind the UN Digital ID has been piloted by different Agencies including UN Pension Fund, where they’ve replaced current manual processes with certainty for who and where pension recipients say they are at any given time.

Imagine a world where onboarding does not take five days but only four hours. Where to prove you are eligible to receive your UN pension it only takes two minutes from the smartphone in the palm of your hand, compared to two months using the old regular post. The UN Digital ID is the same underlying engine that will power all these and many other use cases.

Massimiliano Merelli, Team Lead and Head of the SAP/ERP Service Team, WFP

UN Together Challenge Winner

Photo: Reimagine the UN Together Challenge

The UN Digital ID project is the winner of the Reimagine the UN Together Challenge. On Thursday 12 November, Massimiliano Merelli, Team Lead and Head of the SAP/ERP Services Team at World Food Programme (WFP), pitched the UN Digital ID to a jury in a virtual 3-minute presentation. And the UN Digital ID project won!

The Reimagine the UN Together Challenge is driven by an alliance of interested individuals, networks and departments across the UN system, such as the UN Development Coordination Office, the UN Innovation Network, #NewWork, the UN System Staff College, Young UN: Agents for Change, and the UN Office of Information and Communications Technology, in consultation with staff unions and other key bodies.

Gartner Eye on Innovation Awards for Government 2020

The UN Joint Staff Pension Fund, a collaborator and contributor to the UN Digital ID solution, is a finalist in Gartner’s Eye on Innovation Awards for Government 2020, with its Digital Certificate of Entitlement solution, which uses the same technology.

Gartner Eye on Innovation Awards recognize government organization initiatives that make innovative use of data and emerging technologies to tangibly advance their progress toward digital government. All submissions are assessed by Gartner, and finalists are selected by benchmarking against world-class performance standards.

Photo: Unsplash/Icons8 Team

The Rise of a New Cyber Threat: Working Outside the Corporate Network Infrastructure

When Your Home Is Your Office: Personal Networks and Devices Increase Attack Surface 

The current COVID-19 situation and latest lockdowns have forced many organizations to adapt to keep business and operations running, especially with large numbers of personnel teleworking outside of the corporate network. We published an  article in April  on vulnerabilities and best practices related to videoconferencing, but there are new risks out there to be aware of, especially now that so many of us are relying on home networks and devices with their riskier information security profiles. 

Opportunistic threat actors are using this shift to launch targeted and widespread attacks, as resources privately utilized might not be secure the way they are in an organizational secured infrastructure. With most organizations teleworking, maintaining businesses continuity often outweighs proper security measures. 

Non-corporate resources such as home networks, home computers and unplanned-and-unsecured remote work solutions have provided a new attack surface for threat actors, with a broader and easier-to-compromise scope for targeted attacks against the most valuable target: access to corporate and sensitive data. 

A new and critical vulnerability leads to a new attack surface 

While some organizations provide corporate, secured, and managed resources to their employees, others don’t and, as a result, threat actors have the perfect scenario to leverage access to corporate resources, which from outside the organizational network are unprotected, unmanaged and unsecured. 

In a practical view and, as an example, one of the new attack vectors raised during 2019 was related to Remote Desktop Protocol. Due to the latest critical vulnerabilities affecting this protocol and some of its client-related products, home users’ lack of control in terms of regular patching cycles for home devices allowed threat actors to exploit vulnerabilities in unprotected home systems. 

Many organizations did not prepare for this eventuality, with greater adaptative measures needed to maintain businesses and operations, or measures in a rush, not considering all the necessary controls for adequate information security. 

Low levels of security controls in our home systems encourage threat actors to also target personal email addresses rather than professional ones, leveraging easily-compromised home devices in order to target personal profiles, using the same TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures) as when professional profiles were in their sights but, in this case, with added vulnerabilities, with lower levels of security controls than in a corporate environment. 

Security controls such as 2FA (or MFA, multi-factor authentication) are nowadays available for services and platforms that we use in our personal and professional lives including Gmail, Outlook Live, etc. However, 2FA is not enough! It does not address the main concern: a current and ongoing global security vulnerability that does not exist with a technical appearance, with even more negative global implications and consequences for all of us than the most critical flaw we have ever seen before.  

As we normally distinguish between work life and personal life, we should also do the same with what we use for each of them and be aware of their limitations in terms of information security constraints. 

If bad actors are able to get into our corporate networks and infrastructure where there are security perimeter levels in place (firewall, IPS, IDS, endpoint security, permissions, etc.), they can even more readily use this new and broader scope of attack, targeting systems and networks with a simple and by-default configured settings and a home antivirus engine.  We can expect home and personal targets such as email addresses, home networks and computers, etc. to be a major part of this new and forced attack surface.

What you can do

Some recommendations to be protected against this worldwide security issue include:

  • Implement 2FA in the platforms you use in your personal lives. This is something that does not depend on budget and that is publicly available. 
  • Meet at least minimum-security requirements in terms of complexity and expiration regarding passwords. 
  • Take security awareness training and apply it to your personal live, taking the same precautions at home as at work when opening an attachment or accessing a website. 
  • Apply patching of OS updates and anti-virus signatures in your home devices as if you were at work because now, your office, is your home. 
  • Ask your organization to try to provide managed, secured and corporate devices if teleworking.  
  • Report any suspicious behavior or action you notice when working from either your home or your corporate device to your Service Desk as soon as possible, in order to take appropriate and timely mitigation and containment actions in case of a possible targeted attack against you or your organization. 
  • Lean on your organization’s IT department in case of any doubts or questions you might have in order to act responsibly. It is better safe than sorry. 

Photo: UN Ukraine

UNICC is Now a Contributing Organization in UN Geneva Perception Change Project’s SDG Mapping Initiative

In the spirit of transparency and partnerships to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), UNICC has shared its SDGs alignments with the International Geneva Perception Change Project’s SDG Mapping initiative. The initiative’s goal is to communicate more broadly contributions to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development from contributing organizations.

The portal’s mapping tool shows how organizational experience in digital technologies, collaborative innovation and shared delivery platforms, helps organizations to accelerate their collective rate of achievement on the SDGs. Below is a view of those providing their operational expertise in the field, in support of SDG 9, to sustain industry, innovation and infrastructure.

Launched in 2014, the Perception Change Project’s SDGs Mapping initiative maps ten types of organizational expertise to each of the 17 SDGs. Contributors must analyze their initiatives and identify specific applications of their core competencies to each SDG. The project portal features an SDGs visualization tool so that site visitors can see which organizations are applying different types of expertise to each SDG.

The ten core competences are: norms and standard setting; legal framework and support; capacity building and training; research and collection of data; policy formulation; outreach, advocacy and communication; data analysis, harmonization and statistics; operations in field; and financing.


Because data submitted includes hyperlinks accessible to the public, UNICC included only initiatives reported on UNICC’s public website. And so, while UNICC is making great strides across the SDGs directly and indirectly through its work internally and with its Clients and Partner Organizations, the Perception Change Project reveals only a slice of these strong efforts.

Other contributing agencies include Africa 21, European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), FAO, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi), Green Cross International, ICT4Peace, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), ILO, IOM, ITU, ITC, IUCN, Kofi Annan Foundation, Make Mothers Matter (MMM), OHCHR, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNECE, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNCTAD, UNITAR, UN OCHA, UNFPA, UNRISD, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, World Wildlife Federation (WWF) and others.

UNICC is proud to be among these organizations to move the needle, demonstrate commitments to individual SDGs and accelerate the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.

Please come back and check on our progress from time to time at the UNICC and the SDGs web page.