Information and Communications Technology Section
OCHA’s Information Technology Section (ITS) provides the Information and Communications Technology infrastructure and support required for effective information management, both at headquarters and in the field. The section is also responsible for leading efforts in inter-agency coordination in Emergency Telecommunications, by acting as the secretariat for the IASC sub-working group on the subject.
- Further enhancement of the OCHA Online platform through the development and deployment of the OCHA intranet and field office templates
- Comprehensively review OCHA’s telecommunications connectivity, including e-mail services
- Bolster inter-agency coordination and support in the area of emergency telecommunications
The section finalised the technical platform for the OCHA intranet and launched a pilot version with basic functionality and contents in November. The same platform was used for the migration/creation of field office websites using predefined templates, and website templates were used in eight field offices. The archiving system initially developed for the field was expanded and adapted for use OCHA-wide, creating the OCHA Document Management System (ODMS). Metadata standards and a classification scheme to be used for all websites and ODMS were established and integrated into the system.
ICT connectivity and e-mail support strategies and guidelines were established, including the design and establishment of a Global Area Network (GAN) including satellite services. Connectivity and e-mail infrastructure was provided to eight field offices.
In the area of inter-agency coordination, the Inter-Agency Emergency Telecommunications (IAET) common service was activated for the tsunami and South Asia earthquake emergencies, providing common inter-agency security and data telecommunications services to UN Agencies and NGOs.
IAET lessons-learned exercises where conducted for both these emergencies, and a tsunami user survey was widely disseminated to users. The results were very positive, with high user satisfaction.
Standard technical training modules, including satellite and radio training, were developed and made available to all members of the IASC sub-working group on emergency telecommunications. Open standards for HF radio were developed and a project to inter-connect the different UN networks worldwide was initiated. A second edition of the Handbook on Disaster Communications was published, and the Tampere Convention on the Provision of Telecommunication Resources for Disaster Mitigation and Relief Operations came into force in January 2005, following its ratification by 30 countries.
As planned, a prototype system for tracking donor contributions, based on the Financial Tracking Service (FTS), was developed. This Expenditure Tracking System (ETS) was deployed for the tsunami response. The FTS system itself was also redesigned according to enhanced technical specifications.
Apart from those planned activities, the IT section provided ICT infrastructure to support both the tsunami and the South Asia earthquake operations. Standard collaboration workspaces (QuickPlace) and templates were implemented, and rapidly deployed to support these emergency operations and other needs.
Following the Humanitarian Response Review, OCHA took on the role of chair and process owner for the emergency telecommunications cluster, and contributed significantly to the cluster’s work plan and the framework for its implementation during 2006.
Other applications developed that had not been foreseen in the 2005 work plan were a centralized authentication system, a data collection (survey) system, and a centralised cost plan management system.
The OCHA intranet is available to all 27 field offices, providing more efficient and complete access to information, and helping to better inform staff around the world of OCHA activities and events.
Metadata standards for classification and indexing of documents were established, and are available for use throughout OCHA, improving information accessibility and inter-operability of systems.
All field offices and HICs have been equipped with website templates and platforms, providing field offices with an effective way of disseminating electronic information with a minimum of investment of technical expertise and time.
A comprehensive telecommunications connectivity strategy for OCHA’s field operations was developed in July, which will improve communications and access to common UN resources by providing reliable and rapid standard connectivity solutions for voice and data, as well as for security telecommunications (in line with MOSS compliance).
A revamped and expanded OCHA e-mail system, available to all field operations, was put in place, increasing reliability of and access to e-mail for field staff, while saving on maintenance costs.
An Inter-Agency Emergency Telecommunications (IAET) common service for the humanitarian community was established under the leadership of ITS, resulting in a coordinated approach with less or no duplication of ICT services.
ITS provided technical support to a tsunami expenditure tracking system, facilitating timely and transparent reporting on expenditures. An evaluation and lessons-learned exercise was done, and both OCHA staff and donors confirmed the utility and value-added of the improved system. OCHA will further enhance the system to make it more generally applicable, rather than tsunami-specific.