UNICEF Annual Report 2021: Information and Communication Technology Division – Global



When the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic began in early 2020, UNICEF’s organization-wide digital transformation was already well underway, but the pandemic created urgent needs that accelerated certain aspects of the process. As child poverty indicators declined for the first time in two decades and children’s education and development looked set to become one of the casualties of the pandemic, UNICEF’s mission – to harness the power of digital technology and innovation to realize the rights of children around the world – has become increasingly urgent.

Changes that would have happened over time – such as the expansion and development of digital learning programs for children who could not attend school – suddenly became lifelines for millions of students. worldwide. By the end of 2021, the Learning Passport, a digital platform powered by Microsoft Community Training and provided by UNICEF that allows children to access their school curriculum online wherever they are, had reached more than 2 million children in 17 countries and was voted one of Time magazine’s Top 100 Innovations of the Year. As the Learning Passport’s innovative digital partner, UNICEF’s Information and Communications Technology Division (ICTD) worked with Microsoft to develop the platform’s offline solution, a crucial component that enables countries to deploy the Learning Passport in areas with low or intermittent connectivity and to serve the poorest.

This speed of change that we have witnessed over the past two years, in terms of the applications of technology in humanitarian and development contexts as well as within UNICEF, is unprecedented. In 2021, the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ICTD continued to support all of the organization’s work, ensuring the continuity of its programming in the face of ongoing social restrictions and increased needs. The ICTD quickly expanded the reach of UNICEF’s virtual conference facilities in response to the pandemic; our remote services have supported juvenile courts in Bangladesh, facilitated education and health seminars in India and enabled the organization to continue to operate as a cohesive whole, hosting more than 840,000 meetings during the ‘year. The ICTD has also increased connectivity and improved the resilience of UNICEF systems around the world; 50 offices migrated to the cloud in 2021, reducing their carbon footprint, improving their system resilience and simplifying their work environment.

UNICEF has partnered broadly and creatively – with universities, social media companies and polling platforms, to name a few – to expand its capacity and capacity for innovation. Through changes to UNICEF programming and operations, ICTD has further improved the organization’s digital resilience, modernized its humanitarian responses and capitalized on the power of digital technology to improve healthcare for women and children and to strengthen social protection systems around the world.

Social protection has been in the spotlight during the pandemic, as governments and other actors have witnessed the vital role shock-responsive social protection systems play in protecting their citizens and economies in times of crisis. . In our Yemen case study, we describe how UNICEF adapted the management information system behind the country’s cash transfer initiatives to work in two different local currencies, and improved data visualization in real time to improve responsiveness.

The internet offers young people opportunities for learning and protection, but it also presents serious and growing risks. ICTD has worked to increase the number of safe spaces for children and girls online. This included updating chatbots with simple plugins so they are more empathetic and can quickly direct people facing traumatic or life-threatening situations to people who can help them. Another tool that the ICTD has developed is the E-referral Pathway app, which will ensure that referral pathways for GBV survivors are up to date; Bangladesh and Zimbabwe were selected in 2021 to pilot the application, which was to be tested in the first quarter of 2022.

The ICTD has produced a range of powerful web applications and platforms that put reliable and up-to-date information at the heart of UNICEF’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These include tools for tracking vaccine stocks and schedules, accessible information on COVID-19, and a rule-tracking app operational or under development in more than a dozen countries. .

UNICEF constantly evaluates its internal processes with a view to improving operational efficiency and effectiveness. In 2021, the organization’s new invoice processing system saved more than 4,000 hours of labor time through automation; 55% of UNICEF’s purchase order invoices, of which there are more than 60,000 a year, are now processed by robots. Business process transformation continues apace across all areas of UNICEF’s work, enabling further savings in time and money as well as datasets and insights.

The climate crisis is, without a doubt, a child rights crisis, exposing children to climate and environmental risks, shocks and stresses around the world. To prioritize action for those most at risk, ICTD has worked with partners to launch the Children’s Climate Risk Index in 2021, which provides the world’s first comprehensive view of the exposure and vulnerability of children to the impacts of climate change. Together with volunteer scientists from Carnegie Mellon’s Solve program, the ICTD has also begun to explore the potential benefits and drawbacks of using exploratory data to solve air quality problems around the world. In 2021, ICTD led the development of a transformation plan that will use digital as a key change strategy for UNICEF, in line with the new UNICEF Strategic Plan, 2022-2025. In addition, the OneDigital initiative, developed by ICTD to strengthen digital governance, both strategically and financially, has been implemented to meet the challenges of the organization’s digital transformation. This initiative aims to integrate UNICEF’s efforts in enterprise architecture, information and cybersecurity, and digital governance and oversight across the organization.

In leading the development of these strategies, the ICTD has actively encouraged staff and stakeholders to adopt innovative technologies in planning, implementing and scaling up UNICEF programmes. Going forward, the division will continue to focus on organization-wide digital transformation, improving digital governance and accountability, and laying the foundation for a global real-time data strategy while strengthening and improving UNICEF’s technology investment portfolio.

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