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.

Photo: UNICC

Data and Analytics Team Attends Columbia University Career Fair

UNICC meets applied analytics students with a potential to join the organization

On October 1, UNICC and its Data and Analytics team attended the Fall 2020 Columbia University School of Professional Studies Applied Analytics virtual career fair. The goal of the event was to connect top-tier employers with talented students. 

UNICC, with a growing Data Analytics programme aligned with UN Secretary General’s Data Strategy, is looking to add two interns to the team to help working on Client data science projects, discovering trends and information hidden in vast amounts of data to improve decision-making and help deliver better services. 

The entire event, including a spotlight session, 1:1 meetings with students and a virtual booth with “office hours,” was conducted using a video-enabled virtual platform.

UNICC needs talented students that are looking to apply their skills to help find solutions to global challenges through data and analytics.

Anusha Dandapani, Chief, Data and Analytics, UNICC

The day started with a 30-minute spotlight session where different UNICC staff introduced the organization and explained what makes it so unique. Approximately 25 students from Columbia’s Applied Analytics Masters programme attended this webinar. 

UNICC’s Director Sameer Chauhan opened with a general overview of who we are, what we do and our mission. Frederic Laval, UNICC’s Chief of Human Resources, encouraged students to ask themselves what drives them and choose a career that is fulfilling. He offered details about available internship opportunities and explained that graduate student interns at UNICC get a chance to gain hands-on experience, work on actual projects and see tangible results of their work, all while getting paid and helping to optimise UNICC team outputs and results. 

Anusha Dandapani, Data and Analytics Chief at UNICC, shared with attendees the details of UNICC’s growing programme and asked students to consider applying to the internships if they wanted to make an impact through analytics. 

When you work at UNICC you contribute to the UN mandate and the 2030 Agenda. At the end of the day you feel you have achieved something, you are working for a better world.

Frederic Laval, Chief, Human Resources, UNICC

The presentation was followed by an engaged Q&A, where Sameer, Frederic and Anusha answered various questions students had regarding the organization, the Data and Analytics programme and the internship description and responsibilities.

After this session, Anusha and UNICC’s Chief of Digital Solutions Ninna Roco met with 22 students in a 1:1 format. In these 10-minute informative chats, students were able to enquire about the data science internship, share their resumes and discuss possibilities. 

During the entire day, UNICC’s virtual booth was open and students were offered the possibility to “drop-in” to converse about careers in a less formal setting.  By the end of the event, over 100 students had visited UNICC’s virtual booth and more than half had submitted their resumes for UNICC’s review. 

The Data Scientist internship positions to join UNICC in New York and Valencia is open for applications until Sunday 11 October. The event was one more successful partnership to leverage skills of graduating students and offer them a chance to put their analytics skills to good use harnessing the power of data for good across the UN family.

Photo: Unsplash

Getting It Done, One Electronic Signature at a Time

UNICC electronic signature services

While digital transformations unfold around the United Nations at a record pace, why are so many signatories still out to capture signatures the analogue way? Whether by paper document or electronic PDF, signing the old-fashioned way consumes hundreds of hours of back and forth that a simple electronic signature solution can solve. 

According to Records Nation, 45% of old-school, signed documents end up in the trash bin by day’s end. The rest are filed away, and staff spend up to 40% of their day trying to find them again. So many trees, so much effort – all for the want of a signature. That’s unsustainable. 

COVID-19 also laid bare the impracticality of this process – organizations quickly discovered that few employees had business-grade printers and scanners at home. Even more troubling was a spike in online scams amidst the pandemic. Were those job applicants really who they said they were? Did that vendor really sign this agreement? The age-old process is vulnerable to error and to imposters. 

How to deter this kind of fraud? “Organizations across the UN system began reaching out to UNICC for a solution,” said Tom Buelens, Information Security Specialist based in New York City. “We offered them our Electronic Signature Services offering.”  

UNICC provides Electronic Signature Services to Food and Agriculture Organization, International Fund for Agricultural Development, OPEC Fund for International Development, UNESCO, World Food Programme and World Intellectual Property Organization today and is using it for its own internal workflows. 

UNICC researched and secured an electronic signature solution where technology would guarantee that the validity of every signature is irrefutable, because it is backed up by a comprehensive audit trail. 

UNICC considered several well-established vendors. Adobe, for example, is a pioneer in the technology, offering secure signature capabilities with its suite of products. HelloSign by Dropbox and Citrix’s RightSignature also have enterprise solutions. But DocuSign, which Gartner Peer Insights ranked best in the category, was best placed to serve UNICC’s needs – and the requirements of UNICC’s Clients.  

The electronic signature solution with DocuSign offers the following out-of-the-box benefits: 

  • Increased efficiency by automating signature workflows 
  • Customised and mobile experiences 
  • Effortless compliance with industry and global regulations 
  • Elimination of errors and risk by integrating the solution in a system of record. 

Agencies subscribing to the service through UNICC benefit from the value UNICC has added to the  DocuSign service. These include: 

  • Hosting the UN data in European Union data centres 
  • Immunities and Privileges clauses applicable to the UN included in the contract with DocuSign 
  • UNICC’s expertise in integrating with different applications 
  • Economies of scale through special pricing that DocuSign has extended to UNICC and its Partner agencies 
  • Unique cost recovery on a monthly basis that provide agencies the flexibility to pay as they go.  

UNICC technical specialists work hand in hand with subscribing Agencies throughout the deployment journey and ensure that they get the necessary support in terms of training and education of technical users who will be working with end users during the implementation. Not only that, UNICC technical experts have developed a knowledge base on operating the service and extend the support to the agencies. 

The service includes a dashboard for Clients to track the status of every document, including actions they themselves must take. Once everyone has signed, DocuSign creates a hash of the signed document. If anyone tries to tamper with it, the hash of it won’t match the valid document, and that will raise a flag. 

Photo: DocuSign

If users store all documents in the DocuSign platform, they then preserve each document’s audit log, critical to traceability and compliance. Each electronic signature envelope has a history, where administrators can view transactions on the platform, verifying, for example, that the right person’s email opened the document from a specific IP address, at a specific time. 

One UNICC Client was up and running on the platform in only two hours. It has already integrated DocuSign with its other applications and is now quite fanatic about this UNICC solution. And the real power and business value come when organizations integrate DocuSign with other applications, such as ERPs or knowledge management systems. 

On its website, DocuSign offers a nifty ROI calculator for estimating an enterprise’s expected savings in time and cost by using electronic signature solution. On average, organizations save $36 per agreement and have an 80% faster document turnaround time. That’s remarkable. With UNICC, cost savings are even greater because of its shared resources model (the more Clients join, the more savings there may be). 

DocuSign estimates that, since 2003, its customers have saved 2.5 million trees. Does this service support the Sustainable Development Goals? Of course. First off are Sustainability Development Goal 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and SDG 15 (Sustaining Life on Land). As more Clients sign on to Digital Signature Services, SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals) comes into view. That’s partnering that makes a difference, one signature at a time. 

Photo: ICJ

Sameer Chauhan, UNICC Director, International Gender Champion

UNICC is determined to achieve gender parity at all levels by 2028 

UNICC’s Director Sameer Chauhan joins the International Gender Champions (IGC) network, a leadership community that brings together female and male decision-makers determined to break down gender barriers and make gender equality a working reality in their spheres of influence. 

In the post-COVID world, we must ensure that we build back better our community. UNICC will be tasked with delivering scalable digital solutions for the UN family, as effectively and creatively as possible. We can live up to these expectations only by ensuring we have adequate diversity of perspectives – by gender as well as by sexual orientation, nationality and race. 

Sameer Chauhan, Director, UNICC 

In addition to supporting the IGC Panel Parity Pledge, Sameer has set two clearly defined objectives for UNICC. The first organisational goal is to achieve gender parity by 2028. To reach that milestone, UNICC needs to have a representation of women among UNICC Directors of at least 30%.

The second goal is to have in all recruitment panels at UNICC more than 30% of women, excluding human resources representatives. 

Ensuring we have gender parity at all levels within our organisation is a priority for us at UNICC, and for me personally, as this will be instrumental to best support the UN system. 

Sameer Chauhan, Director, UNICC 

In becoming an International Gender Champion, Sameer joins a network of more than 250 gender parity advocates from over 60 countries, including the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, Director of the Kofi Annan Foundation Corinne Momal-Vanian, Ambassador, Permanent Representative to the UN Office in Geneva Jürg Lauber and many other heads of international organisations, Permanent Missions and civil society organisations. 

Photo: UNFPA

UNICC Provides UNFPA Google Cloud Platform Managed Services

Today’s cloud and mobile technologies are enabling organizations to capitalise on digital transformation and to optimise in the way they operate. By taking advantage of the latest innovations, organizations can transform their way of working, gain new efficiencies by modernizing operations with new tools to empower, transform, support the workforce and improve knowledge sharing and collaboration.

UNICC has reached a major milestone after much success with Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure cloud management services for numerous Clients. As its experience and expertise in cloud services delivery expands, UNICC is now supporting UNFPA’s Google Cloud Platform workloads, from corporate applications and services to its data-oriented application platform, procurement services infrastructure, application support as well as stand-alone application infrastructure for country offices, partners and stakeholders. 

UNFPA has achieved cost savings, optimisation of infrastructure resources and a general piece of mind with the trusted services of UNICC. Our GCP platform services were previously lacking integration, proper oversight and the skilled operational support that UNICC continues to provide.

Luca Baldini, CIO, UNFPA

UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, moved its enterprise application workloads and foundational infrastructure two years ago to the Google Cloud Platform (also known as GCP), together with Google’s G-Suite for collaboration and productivity (Gmail, Docs, Drive, Calendar, Meet and more).

Google’s GCP provided UNFPA with an integrated, cloud-based solution for hosting and managing all of its corporate applications and data stores, providing cost efficiencies and risk mitigation for un-integrated, costly, often not secure locally-hosted platforms and applications. 

The challenge in this move to the cloud involved the ongoing management and continued expansion of GCP components, including application add-ons to the API ecosystem, data analytics, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and more. In addition, UNFPA found they had documentation and information security requirements that needed sound expertise to manage.

As a trusted partner of more than fifteen years, UNFPA has subscribed to UNICC’s consulting services, disaster recovery and backup services, ERP hosting and support (with the UNDP Atlas consortium), information security services, website hosting, Common Authentication Federation services and more. 

In the past year this has included Common Secure Threat Intelligence Network services, Cyber Security Awareness services, Robotic Process Automation from the UNICC-operated UN Digital Solutions Centre, membership in the UNICC-hosted United Nations Partner Portal service and business analysis consulting on migrating Google G Suite to Microsoft 365.

UNFPA GCP managed services

UNFPA first asked UNICC last year to evaluate the Google GCP status quo. Almost all platforms and applications had been migrated out of local, on-premise data centres in Copenhagen, Denmark or in country offices, somewhere around 150 virtual machines. Data was secure in the cloud. Points of integration worked between infrastructure, networking, applications and other productivity tools. 

Service management and support (process oversight and license management), GCP platform support (operating systems accounts management, monitoring, backups, networking), security (controls, threat protection and denial of service attacks, etc.), application support (configuration items tool, web apps, database support and disaster recovery) as well as cost management proved to be beyond the current resource capacity at UNFPA.

Just as AWS and Azure and M365 provide rich platforms for hosting UN family enterprise systems and their data, the work of managing the cloud workloads requires added resource capacity. UNICC provided a solution architecture workshop with the recommendation to shift operational support of UNFPA corporate systems to UNICC. 

UNFPA accepted the recommendations and a team was born to take over the operational management of the UNFPA GCP cloud. Carlos Infantes from UNICC and Joshua Lechner from UNFPA worked to set up and establish new operational modalities, documenting processes, and implementing controls and monitors. Ernesto Suarez joined from the UNICC team to help with the support and re-architecting. 

Google GCP is a suite of cloud computing services that runs on the same infrastructure that Google uses internally for its end-user products, such as Google Search, Gmail and YouTube.  Alongside a set of management tools, it provides a series of modular cloud services including computing, data storage, data analytics and machine learning.

The UNFPA GCP platform includes virtual systems, databases, storage, network, Identity and Access Management and applications, including Kubernetes clusters (open-source container-orchestration system for automating computer application deployment, scaling, and management), LAMP/.Net and CI/CD pipelines. The deployment and use of GCP services by UNFPA included network, storage and compute setup as well as operating systems and application servers, operational processes and tools for monitoring, alerting, configuration, incident, problem and change management and database services deployment (Cloud SQL and MySQL)

High business value for UNFPA enterprise platforms

The added operational support meant that UNFPA’s cloud environment would be secure, professionally managed and subject to proper change controls, change management, optimisation and innovation, with the ability to extend the current application stack. UNFPA GCP infrastructure includes four different platforms allowing the 3,000-person organization in 140 countries to deliver on their substantive missions:

Photo: UNFPA
  • UNFPA enterprise application stack, used for hosting HQ and corporate-oriented applications and services, such as Cognos, Atlasian Confluence and Active Directory services running in the cloud
  • Population data platform, a data-oriented application, currently under development, with heavy use of Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), which provides a managed environment for deploying, managing, and scaling applications
  • Procurement services branch, used for infrastructure and application support for the UNFPA Procurement division based in Copenhagen
  • UNFPA independent applications, used to host stand-alone application infrastructure for country offices and partners. 

Other products and services from the GCP cloud that UNFPA utilises and UNICC manages are:

  • Computing (Compute Engine, Kubernetes Engine (GKE), Cloud Functions and Cloud Run)
  • Storage and databases (Cloud Storage, Cloud SQL, Persistent Disk, Local SSD and Filestore)
  • Networking (VPC – Virtual Private Cloud, Cloud Load Balancing, Cloud DNS)
  • Big Data (Cloud Pub/Sub)
  • Management tools (Stackdriver, Cloud Console and Cloud Shell)
  • Identity & Security (Cloud IAM and Cloud Identity-Aware Proxy).

UNICC is happy to be extending its expertise to the Google cloud platform and application suite. UNFPA’s is likewise pleased with UNICC managed services results, with cost efficiencies and greater streamlined effectiveness across the entrerprise stack.

The IT team at UNFPA can sleep at night knowing that everything is up and running and there’s a shop of experts to keep the lights on and continue to expand the GCP toolset with new functionalities and capbiltiies over time.

Now that service management for the UNFPA GCP is up and running, the two organizations will explore an assessment of the viability and direction of the Google G-Suite.

Photo: Pexels/Morillo

Microsoft and UNICC Take Next Steps to Power Up Capacity Development and Learning across the United Nations

The UN International Computing Centre (UNICC) and Microsoft Tech for Social Impact  have launched new features and content for the UN Digital Academy, a central repository of digital learning resources to enable continuous learning and digital capacity-building for UN staff and stakeholders to assist in the delivery of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals

Indeed the project and portal itself supports SDG Goal 4 (Quality Education) and Goal 17 (Partnerships for the Goals, including Capacity Development in Developing Countries). 

Developing a tech-savvy workforce is critical to the success of UN Agencies that deploy these modern productivity tools.  

Franca Vinci, Head, Learning Services, UNICC

The UN Digital Academy offers UN Agencies a learning platform to deliver training to staff and stakeholders in an easy and efficient way. It also supports the commitments in the Secretary General’s strategy to deepen the UN’s internal capacities and exposure to new technologies. It does so by offering Microsoft knowledge and engagement for its current and continuous technology solutions that UN Agencies have deployed or may be deploying within their organizations.  

The platform was presented at a Microsoft UN Tech Huddle in June. To date, four UN organizations have subscribed to the service, including the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), UN Volunteers (UNV) and UNICC. Additional organizations are expected to onboard shortly to help their digital-capacity building needs.

What’s New!

The new version of the learning platform has additional content, with courses on Microsoft 365 applications including Forms, Planner, To-Do as well as Microsoft 365 Administrator training in English, Spanish and French.  

There are also new courses on Power Apps and Power Automate, and Azure certification training including Data Science basics, Azure and Azure AI Fundamentals, Azure Administrator, Developer, IoT Developer and Solutions Architect.

This release comes with new features such as courses for IT Professionals in line with popular Microsoft certifications, quizzes for 90% of the courses and certificates for M365 courses. Additionally, the mobile application for Android is already available in the Google Play Store.  

The UN Digital Academy, developed jointly by Microsoft and UNICC, hosts bite-sized courses that are meant for end-users to develop their digital and technology skills. As the platform develops, it is expected to evolve more broadly with additional quality content from other sources than Microsoft, always tailored for the UN. 

A further release is planned for December 2020. In the meantime the team will continue to publish more content and exams as soon as they are available. 

Photo: UNICC/Thomsen

UNICC Facilitates UN Inter-Agency Collaboration with a Reputation for Cyber Excellence

Nearly 30 agencies subscribe to UNICC’s common secure threat intelligence service 

The United Nations family, in its unique position as a global, humanitarian body and a holder of large sets of sensitive data, is a natural target for hackers. To deliver its mission uninterruptedly, it is crucial that UN Agencies are able to prepare for, respond to, and mitigate risks associated with threats through a common approach to information security. 

In support of this vision, UNICC launched in 2016 the Common Secure Threat Intelligence service, through which the organization shares timely, relevant and actionable  cyber security threat and incident information that is sourced from member Agencies as well as commercial security firms, service providers, federal, state and local government agencies, law enforcement and other trusted sources, bridging the cyber community and the United Nations system. 

Common secure threat intelligence services  

Beginning in 2016 with a handful of subscribers, the service has grown to nearly 30 UN Agencies and related international organizations, including ADB, CTBTO, FAO, IADB, IAEA, ICJ, IFAD, IIIM, ILO, IMO, ITU, OECD, PAHO, UNCTAD, UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICC, UNICEF, UNIDO, UN OIM, UNRWA, UNWOMEN, WFP, WHO, WIPO and WTO. 

The Common Secure service features automatic dissemination of curated threat intelligence through a Malware Information Sharing Platform (MISP), credential theft notifications and an annual meet-up to enhance collaboration and build trust among subscribing partners.  

In 2019, the conference was held at UNICC’s Centre of Excellence in Valencia, Spain, featuring vendor and regional stakeholder sessions as well as feedback, presentations and input from participating Agencies. The Common Secure Annual Conference scheduled for Istanbul in September 2020, due to the global pandemic, has been postponed to the week of 10 May 2021 at a venue yet to be determined. 

The Common Secure team and platform can quickly triage, consume, enrich and disseminate cyber threat alerts along with other critical information for risk management. This service aids development of professional, trusted relationships among peers and subject matter experts and allows Clients to share information and mitigate threats from all angles, fostering collaboration among various types of organizations with the overall goal of working together to proactively protect organizational reputations and their privileged information assets.

A shared cyber security knowledge hub results in maximum impact and greater efficiency and effectiveness across the UN. With our experienced and certified cyber security experts, we enable our Agencies to create secure business solutions thereby making cyber security as a business enabler.  

Tima Soni, Chief, Cyber Security Section, UNICC

Nearly half of the subscribers are members of the premium service that includes a security risk rating and intelligence enrichment using proprietary data sets coming from both Open and Closed Source intelligence resources. 

Moreover, the shared service provides maximum efficiency and cost savings. More Agencies are expected to join shortly, also bringing Common Secure threat Intel recipients a greater economy of scale. As an example, the monthly price for this services has decreased from around $6000 per Agency in 2016, to $950 today.  

Creating a culture of Cyber Excellence  

The Threat Intelligence service is part of the Common Secure Information Security Hub, a cybersecurity centre for inter-Agency collaboration. Historically, UN Agencies have worked in silos, each developing their own solutions. The development of a shared solution with expert and certified staff that all Agencies can leverage is a brand-new and innovative approach, for which UNICC has been awarded the 2020 CSO50 Award

This hub meets countless strategic and tactical needs, with UNICC building relationships with the cyber community at large on behalf of the UN system, fostering a reputation and a culture of cyber excellence.