UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and WFP, the World Food Programme, in partnership with the ICC, 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
- Chatbots 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 (ICC) 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.