UNICC Trusted Partnerships Rountable Screenshot of Panellists

UNICC Partners Discuss Trusted Partnerships for Digital Public Solutions

UNICC is commemorating its 50th anniversary and as part of the celebration the organization brought together preeminent partners to discuss the topic of Trusted Partnerships: Catalysts for Creative Digital Public Solutions in a public roundtable. 

In this 23 March event, prominent thought leaders from the UN family and beyond discussed the power of partnerships, guided by questions from moderator Prado Nieto Barrantes, Chief, Business Relationship Management, UNICC. 

The panellists of the Trusted Partnerships roundtable were:

  • Enrica Porcari, CIO and Director of Technology, WFP and Chair of the UNICC Management Committee
  • Hans Baritt, Controller and Director, Division of Financial and Administrative Management, UNHCR
  • Dianne Dain, WHO Innovation, Digital Health and Innovation, WHO
  • Jean-Louis Ecochard, Chief Innovation Officer, NetHope
  • Sameer Chauhan, Director, UNICC

The participants defined what successful partnerships look like. Enrica Porcari noted some of the key ingredients in the secret sauce of a strong partnership: hard work and patience to build trust, a shared ethos and continuous support. “We look for partners that are there every step of the way, working side by side with WFP, and who are not there just for the spotlight,” she said.

The discussion moved into the evolution of technology partnerships over the last years and the driving factors of this shift. One of the great values of trusted partnerships is that it allows for more resource efficiency. To that end, panellists noted that UN Agencies should collaborate and share solutions, instead of working independently.

Partnership is the art of understanding shared value. In WFP we have a number of partnerships, not many, but the ones that we have are deep, are sustained, are long-term. And definitely UNICC is one of them. 

Enrica Porcari, CIO and Director of Technology, WFP and Chair of the UNICC Management Committee

Participants shared their views on how partnerships encourage and drive more creative solutioning, with specific examples. They also discussed some of the most critical changes that organisations should make now to have robust, resilient and sustainable partnerships to face the future effectively. 

Dianne Dain reminded the audience of the UN Secretary-General’s description of the current global situation: “The world is facing the greatest crisis since the United Nations was created.” Global challenges including the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and many more can’t be solved by any single individual or organisation, but have to be tackled from different angles through partnerships.

Technology and partnerships play a large part in making the dollars go further. We have to partner across Agencies, leveraging and building on institutions like UNICC.

Hans Baritt, Controller and Director, Division of Financial and Administrative Management, UNHCR

Jean-Louis Ecochard offered his view on the value of trusted partnerships and going from the I to the We: “Diversity in partnerships brings creativity and innovation. We need this creativity to design digital solutions to conditions that don’t fit the current technological stack.” 

After half a century, UNICC continues providing shared services to UN entities and related organizations around the world, connecting groups who can come together to collaborate and make impactful digital solutions. 

UNICC depends on its partnerships with Clients and strategic partners, including public and private sector, NGOs, academic institutions and other entities, and appreciates organizations working together for social good, often counting on UNICC, to make the world a better place.

Photo: UNHCR

UNICC Assists UNHCR with Migration of IrisGuard to Microsoft Azure

Cash assistance in the blink of an eye

​UNICC recently helped the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) migrate the IrisGuard biometric registration and identification system to Microsoft Azure cloud services.

IrisGuard is a critical system used in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to deliver services to refugees and forcibly displaced populations. It operates by scanning any enrolled refugee or inter-displaced person, then having them select a refugee database transaction like cash assistance, medical care, food voucher assistance, resettlement repatriation, among many others. Refugees can safely enroll in the system from the five countries of Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, and Syria, at hundreds of UNHCR-supported IrisGuard stations.

UNICC provided assistance to UNHCR in the form of project management and solution architecture services. UNICC also coordinated the collaboration of multiple suppliers and internal teams to deliver a successful migration and to help create the IrisGuard.

IrisGuard is a key component of the Common Cash Facility used by multiple agencies to provide assistance in the form of cash and goods to beneficiaries.  It is also part of the UNHCR PRIMES (Population Registration and Identity Management Eco-System) applications.

PRIMES is an integrated service platform, which serves as a single data entry point for all digital interaction between UNHCR and its partners. PRIMES made it easier for refugee registration, case management, monetary assistance, as well as reporting for partners.

Photo: UNHCR

In the future, an integrated PRIMES trust and service platform will be the single entry point for all digital interaction between UNHCR and partners with the individuals who are registered. PRIMES is an enabler for:

  • Registration (biographic and biometric) and certification
  • Case-management (including the principal Protection aspects: Refugee Status Determination, Resettlement, Repatriation, Legal and Physical Protection, Child Protection, SGBV and others)
  • Assistance (cash and in-kind)
  • Data management, including reporting and sharing

PRIMES consist of a centralized repository of all relevant identity data, visible and editable – by UNHCR staff and UNHCR partners with appropriate access rights – from anywhere. Certain self-service functionalities for those registered are being developed.

Operational business requirements at UNHCR led to a need to rapidly re-host the IrisGuard application in the cloud. The project kick off meeting was held on the 3 June and the target date was set for the migration on 29 June 2019. To date, this project has helped over 2 million refugees and other forcibly displaced people obtain the services gravely needed while in-transit.

UNICC’s assistance with UNHCR’s IrisGuard project has provided an invaluable service to the refugee and other displaced populations, who although face some of the greatest risks while in transit, can now receive basic services with dignity and efficiency.

For more information about IrisGuard, read “Iris scan system provides cash lifeline to Syrian refugees in Jordan“.

Photo: IFAD/Carotenuto

UNHCR and WFP Launch Plans for UN Digital Solutions Center Hub with UNICC

United Nations Digital Solutions Center – for Business Process Optimization and Innovation

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and WFP, the World Food Programme, in partnership with UNICC, have today unveiled plans for an innovative Digital Solutions Center (UN DSC). The Center aims to use cutting-edge technologies to address common operational challenges faced by both agencies, and the wider UN.

The idea is to jointly develop and deploy solutions such as robotic process automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Chatbots, and even blockchain technology to help streamline how UN agencies organise their support services.  The ultimate goal is to improve efficiency and thus provide higher quality services to the people the UN works with and for.

What the UN DSC can offer and how

Automation and artificial intelligence are transforming the private and public sectors. Much of the current focus is on support functions such as accounting, finance, travel, procurement and human resources.  The DSC has already come up with several potential use cases in which technology could be used across the United Nations System to streamline the way we work and identify, analyse and organise what support is needed.

Some of the ideas include:

  • Using RPA to automate the sanctions screening process
  • Automation of invoice processing
  • Common platforms for travel management aimed at self service
  • Blockchain as a solution to securely store staff records and ease interagency transfers
  • Intelligent software to aid in preparation and review of agreements
  • Chat bots for internal and external queries to support functions like human resources or finance

Many UN agencies have already made advances in the above technologies and more.  The DSC will work with these organisations to explore partnerships that can develop solutions benefitting the entire UN System.  Such collaboration would allow the costs of development and maintenance to be kept to a minimum.

Offering a One-Stop Shop for Innovative Automation Solutions

The UN DSC will be jointly managed by UNHCR and WFP and housed in the United Nations International Computing Centre (UNICC), which has nearly 50 years of experience providing Information and Communications Technology (ICT) services to United Nations programmes, funds and entities.  An Innovation Advisory Board will be created to bring in impartial expertise from the private sector, and WFP’s Innovation Accelerator will also provide support.

To remain agile and to manage costs, the UN DSC will initially operate virtually with cross-functional teams assembled from across the globe to develop solutions.

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