UNICEF expanded its capacity through more advanced information technology. In 2006, a number of factors – including the threat of an avian influenza pandemic, UN Reform and UNICEF’s role as the data communications leader in emergencies – led to improved infrastructure.
DevInfo, the system that allows countries to monitor progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, added the EmergencyInfo database in 2006. The database enables users of handheld computers and personal digital assistants to quickly access data from affected areas and multiple sources.
Planning for an avian influenza pandemic and other potential emergencies was the impetus for developing a ‘work from home’ technical plan. In the event of a highly contagious pandemic, the structure allows staff members to communicate with headquarters, the field and other agencies from home or alternative office locations. This design enables multiple agencies to share network connections for such services as email or Internet access. The ability to continue operating in the midst of disaster will help ensure that children are not mass casualties of an expansive quarantine.
UNICEF has enhanced its emergency preparedness and response capabilities by building collaborative frameworks, procedures and infrastructure necessary for UNICEF to undertake the Inter-Agency Standing Committee leadership role in data communications for humanitarian responses. During 2006, significant achievements included enhancing telecommunication networks to support other UN agencies in emergencies, identifying activation and response procedures, testing inter-agency simulation exercises, activating UN clusters during crises in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Lebanon, establishing cluster support at New York headquarters and conducting training.
UNICEF also fortified its internal information technology performance, achieving global network connectivity above 98 per cent for all regions in 2006.
UNICEF continues to enhance its visibility on the Internet by expanding its website. During 2006, 22 country and regional office sites were launched, bringing the total to 53. During October, Voices of Youth introduced the English and Swahili versions of ‘What would you do?’, an online AIDS-prevention game. And UNICEF’s website for The State of the World’s Children 2006: Excluded and invisible was honoured by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences with a Webby People’s Voice Award.
In 2006, UNICEF’s Information Technology Division helped improve emergency response during the Pakistan and Java (Indonesia) earthquakes, the Sudan/Chad and Somalia emergencies, and the crisis in southern Lebanon by providing information communications technology staff, equipment, technical support, and global inter-agency and interdivisional coordination.
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