Field Infromation Management Project
In early 2004, OCHA’s senior management endorsed a new field information management strategy, recommended by Field Information Support (FIS). The objective is to increase support to humanitarian actors by improving the capacity for decision-making and analysis through strengthened collection, processing and dissemination of information.
In order to implement this strategy OCHA initiated a sub-project, Field Information Management (FIM), within FIS with the specific aim of strengthening field-based information management capacities. This aim is to be achieved by increasing OCHA’s information management capacity in field offices to strengthen the internal flow and management of information, and to provide improved external services to its many humanitarian partners.
In 2005, nine field offices were prioritised for implementation of the information management strategy: Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Ethiopia, Nepal, Regional Office-West Africa (Dakar), Regional Office-Central and East Africa (Nairobi), Regional Office-Asia Pacific (Bangkok), Russian Federation and Zimbabwe.
- Strengthen OCHA’s field-based information management capacities
- Promote a minimum standard of information management within field offices through standardised IM systems and tools
In 2005, FIM worked with donor partners especially the Humanitarian Aid Department of the, European Commission (DG-ECHO) and OCHA’s field offices to build capacity in nine priority OCHA field offices through the creation or designation of Information Management Units (IMU) as an integral component tof the operation.
These field offices were assisted through the provision of 11 expert personnel deployed as information management officers, newly created or OCHA-generic information management systems and related ICT equipment, in order to support OCHA in building the capacity of humanitarian actors for decision-making and analysis through strengthened collection, processing and dissemination of information.
Standardised tools were made available to the nine targeted field offices, although integration of these tools into regular work flow and decision-making is ongoing. Of the six applications being developed under the project, two were completed by the end of 2005 (the Field Document Management System and the E-mail Solution) and four were partially completed (Field Website Template, Contact Directory, WWW database and the Geographic Information Database).
The nine offices were connected to OCHA’s Wide Area Network (WAN) and have reliable access to OCHA’s global e-mail solution and Field Document Management System (FiDMS). This strengthened communication network, coupled with a document management system that provides concurrent information storage and accessibility for headquarters and field offices, has increased efficiency by reducing duplication and facilitating information retrieval. These systems enable OCHA to improve the accuracy and timeliness of information to aid strategic decision-making in the field and at headquarters.
Geographic data (core data sets such as administrative boundaries and population figures)
were collected for Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Niger and Pakistan, and used to produce initial maps of affected populations and other information products to aid humanitarian coordination in response to natural disasters. In 2005, the acquisition of Global Discovery GIS software, which comprises most layers required (boundaries, settlements, transportation and landmarks) for producing baseline (pre-crisis) maps, allowed OCHA to begin the process of improving spatial analysis against various indicators in response to natural disasters and complex emergencies.
At the end of 2005, FIM had partially achieved its stated objective. The creation of Information Management Units and improved ICT infrastructure capacity of the nine field offices newly assisted in 2005, as well as those assisted since 2004.
However, the operational environment, coupled with the high staff turnover that characterizes humanitarian operations, has meant that the integration of information management into work flow and decision-making has not been fully realized at the field level.
Non-structured feedback from a number of stakeholders also indicated that improvements in information management capacity within field offices had provided limited benefit to the wider humanitarian community so far.