Over the past several years, UNICC has seen a steady growth in internships – young professionals, recent graduates and even current university students passionate about the United Nations and UNICC’s digital business solutions contribute to meaningful projects by joining various teams.
Young people must have a say in the decisions that affect their future.António Guterres, UN Secretary-General
These teams range across the organization, from Data and Analytics to Application Development, Operations, Finance and Procurement to Communications and Human Resources. Since the beginning of the internship programme around 2015, UNICC has been proud to host nearly 50 hardworking interns, many of whom have continued to pursue careers within the field of international humanitarian aid and technology. Some have even joined UNICC!
Internships have continued throughout the pandemic, even when most of the interns haven’t been able to meet with their respective teams during their time at UNICC.
Thanks to all of our interns for their contribution and their efforts during this challenging period of uncertainty while they were able to perform their tasks and responsibilities with an excellent manner of professionalism.Frederic Laval, Chief, Human Resources Officer, UNICC
UNICC’s internship programme is mutually beneficial for interns and the organization, because it gives the opportunity for bright young minds to contribute to day-to-day functions, allowing UNICC to put into practice two of its core values: involvement and inclusiveness, while supporting youth to enter the aging UN system. The involvement of interns on UNICC teams creates open conversations where team members and interns can share information for more innovation in accomplishing daily tasks.
The involvement of interns displays the organization’s priority to strengthen collaboration across generations and areas of work for the greater UN mandate. Most recently, five interns working out of UNICC’s Valencia duty station, were invited to attend the Secretary-General’s first visit to the UN Support Base in Valencia.
Today in Valencia, I met with young people and encouraged them to continue speaking out for their right to peace, justice and equality.António Guterres, UN Secretary-General
The internship program also highlights UNICC’s commitment to gender, diversity and inclusiveness in the tech sector. As shown below, of the 14 current interns in UNICC, nearly half identify as women, which according to BuiltIn is 12.6% above than the US national average of female representation in the tech industry.
Additionally, UNICC interns exhibit the international nature of the organization, where they work out of all five of the UNICC duty stations and together speak a total of over 15 different languages.
Benefits to UNICC
Identified areas of interest and growth to implement innovative services for UNICC Clients and Partner Organizations:
- Add to the UNICC knowledge base
- Benefit of high-level skills in specific areas
- Improve the availability and quality of digital business services
- Keep up with the latest technologies and their utilisation
- Keep youth at the centre of the 2030 Agenda.
Meet the Interns of UNICC
Given the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and geographic borders, there have been limited chances for the interns to congregate outside of their teams and collectively reflect on their experiences at UNICC. To encourage these conversations, several interns set up a virtual call to connect for the first time to introduce themselves to one another and their specific responsibilities, share memorable experiences of UNICC and how working for the organization will shape their future trajectories.
Many UNICC interns applied during the final semester of their university studies with previous experience working for international NGOs and nonprofit organizations. Upon embarking on their internship journey with UNICC, they onboarded with their respective teams and are regarded not just as interns in the conventional sense but as true contributors to the projects and duties of their colleagues.
Laura Reis, Finance and Procurement Intern, shares that she is “glad for the chance to support a team of hard-working and highly-skilled professionals,” reiterating the collaborative team ethic of UNICC for all staff.
Furthermore, interns within the same teams find value in interacting and sharing knowledge with one another on different UNICC standards and procedures to further professional development. For instance, Human Resources interns Giannoula Gkramozi and Diego Arista Vinaixa shared that they hold weekly meetings to catch up and work closely together on all sorts of different projects.
These collaborations between the interns, as Application Development Intern Bruno Pezer says, are especially meaningful during the pandemic. “Because the team is so integrated and my colleague, Gianmarco Ruggiero, fellow Application Development intern, is especially helpful, I have no trouble getting to know everybody, understanding the work environment and various tasks.”
Additionally, several interns briefly shared their most memorable UNICC experiences and reflections. Ha-Young Kwon, Communications Aide Intern, states that her most memorable experience was hosting a conversation with upper-level women managers about how far they’ve progressed in their decades-long careers in IT services.
Denian Ouyang, Graphic Design Intern, shares that her favorite experience was working with staff across the organization to deliver the UNICC 50th Anniversary video. Vincent Amande, Service Desk intern, seized the opportunity to expand what he learned in the classroom on IT and Business Information Systems and apply his studies to the real world in a cross-cultural team: “It’s a matter of working with harmony towards a common goal”.
The UNICC Experience
Although the interns are involved in different teams working on projects across the spectrum of the organization, many of their answers tied to one specific aspect of UNICC: the people. “The best aspect about working at UNICC,” says Maria Tranchese, Finance and Procurement Intern, “is the working environment and the collaborative atmosphere. Every member of my team is always available if I need help – they are really interested in my growth and learning in the workplace.” Carla Herrero Cantero, also an intern in Finance and Procurement, shares that the positive work environment she has in UNICC “marks you and makes you realize where and with whom you want to work in the future.”
Reflecting upon their UNICC experiences, the interns spoke on the different lessons they will take away following the end of their contract. One lesson Pablo Izquierdo Ayala, Data Science Intern, brought into the conversation was related to his interactions with colleagues in UNRWA during the period of unrest in Palestine in the spring of 2021. He shared that “it was humbling in every sense” and encouraged him to adopt a broader, better informed and interpersonal perspective through working for such an international organization.
UNICC, a proponent of supporting educational and learning endeavors through strategic partners, academic institutions or otherwise, continues to encourage all those who are eligible and interested in applying to the Internship Programme to do so. Young professionals, recent graduates and current students will not only be regarded as valued team members but also find professional and personal growth in each opportunity they face during their experience at UNICC.
UNICC’s commitment to the internship programme is indicative of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, notably in SDG 4: Quality Education, SDG 5: Gender Equality, SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth and SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.
Thank you interns! View current openings for Internships and other positions on the UNICC public web site Working With Us page.
ID2020 is coordinating funding for identity and channeling those funds toward high-impact projects, enabling diverse stakeholders – UN Agencies, NGOs, governments and enterprises – to pursue a coordinated approach that creates a pathway for efficient and responsible implementation at scale.
Since 2016, ID2020 has advocated for ethical, privacy-protecting approaches to digital ID. In 2018, ID2020 Alliance Partners, working in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), drafted a formal articulation of our perspective on ethical approaches to digital identity. The landmark ID2020 Alliance Manifesto lays out these shared principles and forms a starting point to guide the future of digital identity globally.
For the one in seven people globally who lacks a means to prove their identity, digital ID offers access to vital social services and enables them to exercise their rights as citizens and voters and participate in the modern economy. But doing digital ID right means protecting civil liberties and putting control over personal data back where it belongs in the hands of the individual.
Every day, we rely on a variety of forms of identification to go about our lives: our driver’s license, passport, work badge and building access cards, debit and credit cards, transit passes, and more.
But technology is evolving at a blinding pace and many of the transactions that require identification are today being conducted digitally. From e-passports to digital wallets, online banking to social media accounts, these new forms of digital ID allow us to travel, conduct business, access financial and health records, stay connected and much more.
While the move to digital ID has had many positive effects, it has been accompanied by countless challenges and setbacks, including large-scale data breaches affecting millions of people. Most of the current tools are archaic, insecure, lack appropriate privacy protections and commoditise our data. But that’s about to change and ID 2020 is leading the charge.
The ID2020 Alliance (UNICC has been a member since 2019) includes businesses, nonprofits, governments and individuals, working in collaboration to ensure that the future of digital identity is, indeed, #goodID.
UNICC Takes Part in the Tenth Anniversary Celebration
UNICC is proud to have been a part of the warm welcome to Secretary-General António Guterres to the UN Support Base in Valencia to take part in the celebration of its tenth birthday.
I’m extremely grateful for the work of my colleagues at the UN Support Base in Valencia, Spain. Through the deployment of innovative solutions and digital support, they play a critical role in ensuring we can deliver our work, around the clock and around the world.António Guterres, UN Secretary-General
The Secretary-General recognised the work of the people at the base, which has expanded beyond the UN Department of Operational Support (DOS, formerly DFS) to include more Agencies, including UNOPS, UNICC, and now UNICEF and IOM.
The UN Support Base hosts the UN Global Service Centre (UNGSC) to meet the needs of UN peace operations worldwide since 1994. Nowadays, UNGSC’s mandate is to provide critical logistics, geospatial, Information & Telecommunications technologies services and training to all Secretariat Entities, Peacekeeping and Special Political missions, Agencies, Funds and Programmes of the UN system worldwide.
UNICC is the biggest Agency in the base (with nearly 300 personnel in its Centre of Excellence and Common Secure Operations Centre, or CSOC), and is also the biggest UN Agency in Spain. The Centre of Excellence covers many strategic areas of digital business solution delivery, from cyber security, data and analytics, innovative new technologies as well as ongoing operational services. UNICC acknowledges Spain’s efforts to provide the required space to accommodate the continuous growth of the organization.
I want to affirm our commitment to work on the expansion of this centre, attracting more and more the various United Nations Agencies to transform or to continue transforming this centre into the technological and communicational heart of the most important activities that we develop for the benefit of the populations most impacted by the difficult times that we are living.António Guterres, UN Secretary-General
Celebration participants included among others:
- António Guterres, UN Secretary-General
- Arancha González Laya, Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation of Spain
- Ximo Puig, President of the Generalitat Valenciana
- Carmen Martínez Ramírez, Mayor of Quart de Poblet (the town where the base is located)
- Atul Khare, Under-Secretary General for Operational Support, UN Department of Operational Support
- Giovanna Ceglie, Director of the United Nations Global Service Centre (UNGSC)
- Sameer Chauhan, Director, UNICC
- Michel Bergeron, Head of Premises of the United Nations Information and Communications Technology Facility in Valencia (UNICTF) and Chief of Service for Geospatial, Information and Telecommunications Technologies (SGITT)
The agenda followed the Secretary-General’s itinerary. He was received in the airport by the USG and Minister of Foreign Affairs. The President of the Generalitat de Valencia, the Director of UN GSC, the Director of UNICC and the Mayor of Quart de Poblet met and greeted him.
The Secretary-General and the Minister of Foreign Affairs then unveiled a commemorative plaque for the 10th anniversary of the base. The group went to the cafeteria where the Secretary-General was briefed about the expansion of the base and inclusion of new Agencies. In the cafeteria, there was a press briefing by the UN Secretary-General, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs and the President of the Generalitat Valenciana.
The group walked around the cafeteria visiting the booths, including UNICC’s, where the Secretary-General talked with Sameer Chauhan, Prado Nieto, Mati Gil, Esther Ferrer, Liliana Hedges, Martina Kellen and others from UNICC.
In a separate session later that afternoon, the Secretary-General met with the youth of Spain at the City of Arts and Sciences. Among the select group of twenty youth were five UNICC interns.
Young people must have a say in the decisions that affect their future.António Guterres, UN Secretary-General
They held a roundtable discussion on topics including reinforcement of multilateralism to fight global challenges and COVID-19, the digital revolution, global inequality, rightful work for youth and action for climate change.
The UN Support Base celebratory event was an affirming testament to the good work that UNICC delivers to its more than 70 Clients and Partner Organizations and also provided an opportunity for UNICC to share its success stories and digital business solutions with UN leadership, the Spanish government, the UN Support Base, the town of Quart de Poblet, the city of Valencia, the country of Spain and the wider world.
2021 so far has held several ‘firsts’ for UNICC, one being the organization’s first Global Hackathon: Data for Good, where international engagement of ambitious students was a rich and valuable experience for all staff, mentors, students, teams and judges involved.
In the spirit of ‘firsts,’ one participating team for the first challenge of the Hackathon, the COVID-19 Open Challenge, particularly shared in this sentiment: Team Trojan Army of PSG College of Technology, India, who, in their first year of university embarked on their first data analytics study, entered and became a finalist in their first hackathon.
Asvika M., Narini A., Nithiya Shri S. and Shri Vignesh S. of PSG College of Technology, after a few months of attending their first year of their undergraduate studies, received from their professor a link to register for the Global Hackathon. The four students, who knew each other from their university classes, signed up and entered under the name Team Trojan Army. For the next few days, the students successfully developed a solution that got them into the final.
UNICC’s Global Hackathon: Data for Good launched on Tuesday, 16 February 2021 with an introduction from the organization’s executive leadership to a global audience of UNICC and other UN organizations’ staff members, university representatives and over 140 students. Following the introductory remarks from UNICC’s Director Sameer Chauhan and Chief of Digital Business Solutions Ninna Roco, Anusha Dandapani, Chief of Data Analytics, introduced the three challenges of the hackathon: COVID-19 Open Challenge, Refugee Crisis: Predict Forced Displacement, and the UN75 Visualization Challenge.
From the start of the Hackathon, Team Trojan Army faced several obstacles. Notably, though all students were eager to tackle these challenges and learn more about data analytics, none of them had formally studied it; Asvika, Narini and Nithiya are pursuing degrees in Cybersecurity, and Shri in Engineering.
We split up the work into four different parts, but the first day of the Hackathon was pure learning. We didn’t know how to read the data, how to create the graphs– everything was completely new.Shri Vignesh S., Team Trojan Army, PSG College of Technology
However, through publicly available instructions on how to effectively navigate data analytics software, the guidance of the mentors and the like-minded tenacity to build the best possible presentation within the fixed time frame, Team Trojan Army delivered and presented as finalists their solution to the COVID Open Challenge.
To build their solution, the students approached the challenge holistically. By using Pandas, Excel and Power BI, they manipulated the data and constructed visualisations of global and national rates of COVID-19 transmission and deaths in the U.S. and in Europe. In addition to data visualisations of trends in the virus itself, the team also provided graphs measuring the economic impact of the international handling of the global pandemic, comprehensively tying in key factors such as a nation’s GDP, unemployment and currency inflation rate.
Lastly, Team Trojan Army proposed several innovative solutions to the eradication of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of these included the construction of an international facility to oversee the global COVID-19 vaccine distribution as encouraged by the World Health Organization and UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
The students also included other suggested solutions to the pandemic such as entrepreneurial economic models and an increase in federal spending to jumpstart job markets, in addition to the creation of a mobile app to facilitate location-based vaccine and virus tracking to curb the prolonging of the pandemic.
In an interview following the Hackathon, the team commented on how much they take away from the experience. “In one of the mentor sessions,” Asvika recalled, “we learned that the data has a narrative, and we need to create that.”
The students also mentioned how influential the Hackathon has been to their future plans in the field of data science, learning from the solutions of other finalists and winners. The students came to see first-hand in their research more about the UN and the extent of its work through the data sets provided. “We went from a point of knowing little to nothing to presenting our solutions in front of UN representatives. That in itself was a major achievement for us, nothing short of astonishing.” This was their final first… and just the beginning of a learning journey.
This article is part of a series of stories from the first UNICC Global Hackathon: Data for Good that took place in February 2021. The hackathon drew registrations from a total of 140 students from 54 universities located in 13 countries around the globe, all of whom came together to tackle three major UN related challenges: COVID-19 Open Challenge, Refugee Crisis: Predict Forced Displacement, and the UN75 Visualization Challenge. To learn more about this successful event and its wonderful finalists, please refer to this article here.
UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, has recently embarked on a mutually beneficial journey with UNICC. While UNRWA has been a UNICC partner for fifteen years, their relationship blossomed last year with a host of new initiatives as well with an agreement for UNRWA to supply IT and other skilled support staff to UNICC, allowing UNICC to leverage cost-efficient resources and support UNRWA’s mission to deliver services to over 5 million refugees in the Middle East.
I’m so pleased with UNICC because they’re not only offering application hosting as we traditionally received from other service providers within and outside of the UN, but they’re offering management and consolidation services, and they were really looking for ways to optimise our architecture and reduce our costs.
Kaan Cetinturk, CIO & Director of Information Management and Technology, UNRWA
Achieving Human Potential through Digital Transformation
UNRWA, with its mission to help Palestinian refugees achieve their full potential across the spectrum of human development initiatives, needed to optimise its IT business processes and consolidate and simplify its enterprise application stack.
Digital transformation means a significant shift in how an organization builds and uses digital tools and platforms, how they use technologies to improve internal operations and help people to be more focused on the organization’s business, mission and values.
Digital transformation is now a CIO priority as more business leaders understand business agility, resiliency and productivity as important factors in determining their success. Kaan Cetinturk, CIO and Director of Information Management and Technology, UNRWA, was of this mindset when he reached out to UNICC for advisory and digital business support.
After a number of projects including information security assessments, a connectivity consultancy and Forrester IT advisory services support, early in 2020 UNRWA subscribed to Infotech Advisory Services through UNICC, and together, through workshops and consultations, the organizations plotted a strategic path for digitisation of the UNRWA enterprise application stack.
As outcomes of this strategy and roadmap, UNICC supported UNRWA with a host of services and projects, from meeting management support, remote conference hosting services, security enhancements for infrastructure and applications, electronic signature services, Azure hosting for a number of applications as well as support for UNRWA’s International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), hosting an IATI generator, data transparency dashboard, application development, maintenance and support.
UNICC supported the following 2020-21 projects to fundamentally modernise UNRWA’s digital footprint:
UNRWA transformation initiatives. Credit: UNICC
Migrating, Hosting and Supporting the UNRWA ERP REACH SAP Platform
UNICC’s involvement with UNRWA’s digital transformation journey began with ERP support. CIO Kaan Cetinturk reached out to UNICC asking for support to migrate and manage their SAP ERP platform, which was hosted in the UN Global Service Centre (UNGSC) data centre in Valencia, Spain.
In September 2020, the plan to migrate the REACH SAP platform began, moving it to the UNICC data centre, co-located in the UNGSC. The goal was to complete migration before December 2020; however, the production migration was postponed due to business concerns affecting end-of-the-year financial reconciliation and payments.
UNICC supported UNRWA on migrating development and staging environments before the end of the year, using these migrations as testbeds for evaluating migration and reducing risks to UNRWA business stakeholders.
By January 2021, a new plan for migrating the Production environment was agreed, where a dry run for testing the production platform migration was introduced, to further reduce the risk of interface failure with other external systems. Since the UNRWA REACH SAP has a series of interfaces with other business-critical systems of UNRWA (i.e., eHealth, eTM, RRIS, FMIS, etc.), the joint team had to mitigate any connectivity and interface issues that might arise.
Production migration was completed successfully at end of March 2021, with some ongoing activities related to migrating additional production systems ancillary to REACH SAP systems, as well as setting up a Disaster Recovery platform in UNICC’s data centre in Geneva, Switzerland.
The UNRWA REACH SAP system was one of the first production platforms to be hosted in UNICC’s data centre in Valencia. The migration required a sound level of coordination with the previous hosting provider, the UNGSC, to allow the setup of required applications to support the migration of the platform.
Photo: UNRWA Espana
Providing a Holistic Solution, Not Just Application Hosting
What persuaded CIO Kaan Cetinturk to move in this direction? Shifting from the UNGSC to UNICC data centre was a holistic solution rather than just a hosting service. UNICC offers applications hosting as well as ongoing support, with improvements, administration, consolidation, monitoring and reporting.
UNICC helped and is still helping UNRWA transform their organization in identifying an effective, enterprise-wide, digitally enabled ERP-based business transformation roadmap by:
- Building an ERP digital strategy and vision
- Assessing the maturity of business innovation and digital adoption
- Understanding the value generated by the business transformation
- Increasing the performance rate for the new infrastructure deployed in Valencia
- Providing additional support for setting up new Azure Data Gateway systems, a new interface hub system supported in Azure cloud for UNRWA
- Reducing operational costs, providing additional flexibility to add in new services, and faster operational support for increased client satisfaction and increasing the overall security of the platform through including common security services.
Migrating, Hosting and Supporting eHealth and Education Applications
UNRWA was hosting its eHealth and Education Management Information System (EMIS) applications from their data centre in Amman, Jordan and was looking to move applications hosting to the UNICC data centre in Valencia, where cost-efficiencies, stricter security controls and ongoing administration, monitoring and reporting meant a more robust solution.
A plan was agreed to provide hosting services for the UNRWA eHealth and EMIS applications environments, for production, staging and testing environments, with Disaster Recovery in the UNICC Geneva data centre for risk mitigation and business continuity.
We make every effort to provide the best possible services, reduce costs and help UNRWA achieve their goals. As an example, for the eHealth application, we are helping them reach their goal. We recognize that the e-Health application benefits a large number of clinics and hospitals in the Middle East, so that is our target.Javier Conde, Solution Architect, UNICC
The goal is to migrate the eHealth and EMIS applications infrastructure to UNICC premises and hand over operational tasks related to platform infrastructure from UNRWA to UNICC. This allows UNRWA to have 24/7 support and utilize UNICC support organization distributed across three continents. The support scope includes but is not limited to:
- Creation and management of customer dedicated network VLANs for the front-end and back-end servers
- Management of firewalls and Load Balancer VIP addresses
- Provisioning of virtual servers for staging environments
- Production and Disaster Recovery environments
- Installation with UNICC monitoring tools and definition of monitoring alerts and escalation paths
- Virtual server and Operating System administration
- Backup configuration
- 24/7 incident management support
- Assistance on the applications migration and Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity configuration.
Since the eHealth and EMIS databases are combined, UNICC assisted UNRWA in saving time and money on hosting, maintenance and migration. As a result, UNICC was able to help UNRWA to identify ways to reduce costs of their IT services, enabling them to invest savings in other areas. The production migration for both applications is expected to be completed in Spring-Summer 2021.
Doing Dev Ops Successfully with Azure DevOps Services
Another critical component of UNRWA’s digital transformation was its Dev Ops capabilities. UNRWA asked UNICC for a tooling license to do Dev Ops for application development, and thanks to UNICC, they quickly realized that Dev Ops is more than just a collection of tools, despite some definitions. DevOps refers to a set of practices, methodologies, and technologies that enhance an organization’s security and ability to deliver software and services successfully.
UNICC, with its highly skilled Applications Delivery team, provided the know-how to get this going. UNRWA undertook a series of workshops hosted by UNICC to learn how to do DevOps effectively using Microsoft Azure DevOps services. And now, they’re using this technique for their production systems.
UNRWA doesn’t need to see UNICC as a provider, because first and foremost, we are non-profit. This sets us apart from most other public or cloud providers. Our primary goal is to provide the best possible services. So, when we work with an organization like UNRWA, they don’t have to see us as a competitor or just a hosting provider because their goal becomes our goal and we will work as UNRWA colleagues.Javier Conde, Solution Architect, UNICC
Common Secure Security Information and Event Management (cSIEM) Services
Many UNICC Clients, including UNRWA, have implemented cyber security services including security log and event collection and management systems, endpoint detection and response tools, firewalls, intrusion prevention systems and other security operations tools.
UNRWA was looking for a strong platform to help to visualise anomalies that may occur and to enable quick and useful analysis of log data that allows the countering of complex cyber threats.
UNRWA will be using UNICC’s CSIEM services to collect, correlate and analyze event logs from its core components globally to enhance overall information security operations and to enable the identification of suspicious behavior and early signs of compromised infrastructure components or systems.
Supporting the Sustainable Development Goals
Multi-stakeholder collaboration and inter-Agency coordination are essential for digital transformation and IT growth. This can be accomplished by involving a wide range of stakeholders in the digital field and exchanging best practices within the UN system.
As the largest direct service provider to Palestine refugees in its areas of operations, UNRWA supports the following Sustainable Development Goals central to our work: SDG 1: No Poverty; SDG 2: Zero Hunger; SDG 3 Good Health and Well-Being; SDG 4: Quality Education; SDG 5: Gender Equality; SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation; SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth; SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities and SDG 13: Climate Action.
And the new partnership between UNICC and UNRWA clearly supports SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure as well as SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals for a partnership that is growing day by day.
UNICC is pleased to announce that the Commonwealth Secretariat has been accepted as a UNICC User Organization. UNICC’s Business Relationship Manager for the Commonwealth Secretariat is Portia Machancoses.
The Commonwealth Secretariat is an intergovernmental organisation that supports member countries to achieve the Commonwealth’s aims of development, democracy and peace.
The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 independent and equal countries. Its roots go back to the British Empire, but membership of the modern Commonwealth does not depend on formerly being part of the British Empire. Members work together to promote prosperity, democracy and peace, amplify the voice of small states and protect the environment.
The Commonwealth Secretariat:
- Is a voice for small and vulnerable states
- Champions young people
- Promotes justice and human rights
- Addresses threats like climate change, debt and inequality
- Helps grow economies and boost trade
- Supports decision-makers to make good laws and deliver policies
- Helps strengthen governance and build inclusive public institutions
- Provides technical help and training
- Sends experts and observers to countries to give impartial advice and help solve national problems
- Provides systems, software and research for managing resources.
The establishment of the Commonwealth Secretariat in 1965 emphasised the equality of all members, and gave final discouragement to the lingering sentiment that one member had a right to some predominance over others. It has enabled the Commonwealth to develop along independent lines in accordance with the interest of all its members.Julius Nyerere, President of Tanzania (1973)
The Commonwealth Secretariat supports member governments and partners with the broader Commonwealth family and others, to improve the well-being of all Commonwealth citizens and advance their shared interests globally.
On Thursday 15 April, the UN Innovation Network (UNIN) hosted a webinar as part of its Blockchain Learning series on the Digital Certificate of Entitlement solution, developed by UNICC and the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund (UNJSPF) for the Pension Fund’s beneficiaries around the globe.
The webinar began with a presentation by Dino Cataldo Dell’Accio, CIO, UNJSPF, who detailed the broader objectives of the Digital Certificate of Entitlement solution, revolutionizing the Pension Fund’s 70-year-old manual processes.
With a pool of nearly 80,000 beneficiaries, UNJSPF annually holds the responsibility of ensuring the proper delivery of all 80,000 pensions. A tedious, antiquated and risk-prone procedure was in need of updates. Objectives for this solution included process automation, reliability, privacy, security and scalability.
Shashank Rai, CTO, UNICC then described the technical functionalities that serve UNJSPF’s objectives. He noted the application’s ability to confirm biometric Identity of every beneficiary, addressing the Pension Fund’s need to prove facial recognition, proof of existence and physical location.
We need to congratulate UNICC for its flexibility in navigating the challenges of implementing the application in the middle of the pandemic. The blockchain technology applied in this Digital Certificate of Entitlement brings about endless possibilities to automate other aspects of the pension distribution process and beyond.Dino Cataldo Dell’Accio, CIO, UNJSPF
Another aspect of the Digital CE solution that Shashank described was the immutability of the process of identity verification, whereby all private, biometric data for beneficiaries is hosted on individual mobile devices onto which the app is downloaded. Because of various obstacles around data privacy and security in the process of verification, the respective hosting of a beneficiary’s data, named a “blockchain wallet,” is “a way to bring back the ownership of one’s data into their own hands.”
The webinar also featured a Q&A session during which many representatives attending from organizations such as UNDP and WFP inquired about numerous aspects of the solution, such as the application’s development process, particularly over the course of the pandemic. Despite the its hampering of plans to properly present the solution throughout the UN ecosystem, UNICC developers and involved stakeholders were able to successfully roll out the Digital Certificate to 250 test beneficiaries in WFP and FAO.
UNIN’s feature of the Digital Certificate of Entitlement solution serves as a testament to the UNICC and UNJSPF commitment to Sustainable Development Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, and Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals. The partnership extends form UNICC and UNJSPF to working with the UNIN to share innovative digital business solutions.
The UNIN is an informal, collaborative community of UN innovators interested in sharing their expertise and experience with others to promote and advance innovation within the UN System. The UNIN is open to innovators from all UN Agencies as well as external partners and to date, 3,000 colleagues from 65+ UN Entities in over 140 countries have joined the Network.
International Financial Institutions Contribute to a Shifting Business Model while Amplifying UNICC’s Digital Transformation Capabilities
UNICC, as a trusted shared service provider for the UN family and its related organizations, has a growing impact on the mission to address humanitarian crises on a global scale. With an increase in influential partnerships – at over 70 Clients and Partner Organizations – and a 50-year record of effective digital business solutions delivery, UNICC is redefining how it delivers its services in a changing digital international development landscape.
Notably, opportunities lie ahead in UNICC’s growing number of partnerships with a particular group of institutions named International Financial Institutions (IFIs). IFIs are multilateral, regional and national development banks that fund UN-centric operations on an unparalleled scale around the globe.
Critical to the mission to propel international cooperation and resources towards achieving the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals, IFIs are a key component in the funding, implementation and delivery of UN family development projects and programs. From the IFI’s 2013 open letter to then-UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ approach towards multilateralism to the 2030 SDG Agenda, IFIs and UN entities are expanding their partnerships day by day.
Funding Relationships from the Source
It’s a welcome shift in UNICC’s business model to work with IFIs, who enter the funding process at early stages of humanitarian programme delivery.
UN Agencies (and through them, UNICC) typically enter the project cycles later, closer to and supporting ‘last-mile’ partnerships with NGOs and civil society organizations. In working with IFIs, UNICC can identify and develop opportunities beyond its traditional partnerships with the IT or business units of UN Agencies.
IFIs are involved in funding projects from the beginning, with a wide and deep perspective on programming, with substantial funds and advanced technology at their fingertips, to make the world a better place.Prado Nieto, Chief, Business Relationship Management, UNICC
Asian Development Bank
UNICC’s involvement with IFIs began in 2016 with a partnership with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), a global organization dedicated towards providing funding for development projects, $21.5 billion in 2019, to 49 countries in Asia and the Pacific. ADB initially approached UNICC looking for a provider of Disaster Recovery (DR) services, with UNICC providing a resilient backup infrastructure and environmental and security management in UNICC’s Geneva Data Centre.
Since the original Service Delivery Agreement (SDA) in 2016, UNICC has worked with ADB to provide a number of critical services, granting the bank the title of UNICC’s first IFI ‘Privileged User’ for its influence as one of our top ten Clients.
Expanding the IFI Horizon
Following UNICC’s agreements with ADB, UNICC grew in visibility as I participated in 2019 meeting for IFI CIOs (Chief Information Officer) in Cape Town, South Africa. In the meeting, where more than 12 IFIs were represented by CIOs, we advocated for the potential for collaboration between IFIs and UN Agencies through UNICC’s support.
We had a very good time, commiserating a little but learning and inspiring each other. I am sure you will all agree that we ought to continue strengthening our collaboration. We all share a similar mission and genuine partnership is what the world needs more.Denis Robitaille, the Vice President and Chief Information Officer of the World Bank’s Information and Technology Solution, IFI CIOs Club, Cape Town, September 2019
Even in the two years since the meeting in Cape Town, the progress is palpable. Services that are provided to IFIs include but are not limited to:
- Disaster Recovery/Resilience
- AWS Cloud Hosting
- Data Lake
- Robotic Process Automation
- Business Intelligence.
The impact of UNICC’s services for IFIs go beyond the signing of contracts. Since IFIs not only require but also can afford the latest innovative technologies, these partnerships reveal several key areas of growth for the organization.
Firstly, IFIs have the financial capabilities to outsource solutions from providers in the private sector, leaving UNICC to constantly sharpen and grow in all aspects of service delivery to keep up with competitors. Areas such as cyber security, Big Data, artificial intelligence are several of many solutions required by IFIs that will keep UNICC up to date with cutting-edge technologies.
Additionally, in providing services and maintaining relationships with IFIs, UNICC will see a vitalization in the internal health of the organization.
IFIs can help UNICC envision a future of growth and change, whether it’s volume discounts for shared services or an increase in onboarding skilled experts to support new challenges and projects. The partnership with IFIs carries the potential to improve UNICC’s financial health and enhance its digital transformation capabilities to support the missions of its Clients and Partner Organizations.