By Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director of Corporate Citizenship at Microsoft and Board Member of the Foundation for a Digital UN
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is playing a central role in development work around the world. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon believes in the power of ICT as a strategic enabler and in the opportunity it provides to transform the UN, creating a more effective, efficient and transparent organization.
The Foundation for a Digital UN is being launched under the support of the United Nations and it strives to provide knowledge, technology and resources that can be leveraged and mobilized to further the goals of the United Nations around the world. The Foundation will focus on how ICT can support the UN’s goals and strengthen its global program activities. The UN’s global mandate is vast, spanning peace and security, economic and social development, humanitarian assistance, human rights, international law and additional diverse issues such as climate change.
We have already seen the impact of technology at the United Nations. Very early on, Microsoft and its employees helped develop a people registration and tracking system for refugees for UNHCR. The impact of this system has been to help re-unite thousands of families as they stream into refugee camps. Most recently through Skype we have been able to connect refugees to their families from camps in Dadaab in Somalia and Kenya.
Rather than focusing on specific technologies, the Foundation for a Digital UN seeks to solve problems that may span many United Nations programs and provide the opportunity to function cooperatively and efficiently for the benefit of everyone. Under the motto “perfect information to aid an imperfect world”, the Foundation will leverage technology to enhance communication, knowledge sharing, and improve decision making on a global scale. It will support the Millennium Development Goals through more adaptable, nimble and innovative solutions that complement existing UN Program activities and other public-private partnerships.
The United Nations operates within long-term planning and budgetary constraints which at times limit its ability to offer solutions that leverage cutting-edge technology, affecting its ability to deal with urgent global problems as they arise. The time has now come when, to achieve truly high impact and better results, it needs additional support. That is where the Foundation will play a key role, by providing sound strategic guidance and contributing expertise, technology and financing. Through this support the Foundation will be able to increase knowledge sharing; speed the delivery of aid in the most optimal manner; increase the use of mobile technology; and reunite families in the times of crises.
Microsoft along with the other partners including Intel, Cisco, Landmark Ventures and Global Partnerships Forum are joining in this effort. We believe that there is an urgent and unmet need to leverage the power of technology to address global issues and invite other organizations to consider getting involved with the newly launched initiative to address these opportunities for global social innovation. Contributing to global well-being will put you on the side of those partners that are socially responsible citizens of the world, doing their part to advance the human condition. United, we will be able to push forward key initiatives that will help the United Nations deliver their mandate.
Please join us at www.DigitalUN.org.