UNDP-DRC, pioneer in ICT innovations!

31 Oct 2014

Illustration - Atlas of renewable energy in DR Congo Illustration - Atlas of renewable energy in DR Congo

A landlocked country whose lenth is equivalent to the distance between Marseilles and Warsaw! Yes, the Democratic Republic of Congo is a landlocked country covering an area of 2.4 million km2: vast forests, a Congo River as powerful and dangerous as the Amazon, impassable roads, inaccessible housing areas, conflict and post-conflict regions, almost non-existent infrastructure in the rural areas, ultra-limited access to water and electricity, a rainy season lasting 8 months per year, very low population density…  The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is the world’s second office, the first in Africa having the most diversified portfolio of projects amounting to 100 million USD per year. UNDP has 450 staff including 200 located in 11 offices in the country.
How can the puzzle of connecting people to each other, at a lower cost and in the best conditions, be resolved? How can the UNDP make work easier for its staff on the ground, and hence improve the situation of beneficiaries?
Equation with many unknowns
To resolve it, in November 2013, Moustapha Soumaré, Deputy Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations, Humanitarian Coordinator, Coordinator of the United Nations System and UNDP Resident Representative, requested a joint mission of the Information Bureau and Technology (OIST) and the Regional Office Africa (RBA) to draw up an inventory to improve support for ICT in DRC.
Among the demands, there was a need to reduce the cost of maintenance of obsolete computer equipment, to move from VSAT to fiber optic, to encourage green energy by replacing generators with solar panels, and to improve the system of telephone conferences so as to reduce air and vehicle travel, which were energy-intensive and time-consuming.
Technological-informatico-Copernican revolution!
To carry out such a technological revolution requires strong leadership of the Senior Management of the UNDP-DRC and especially creativity, competence and expertise of computer specialists, all having the ability to understand the problems and seek the most practical solutions, the most economical, most comfortable and also the most accessible and stimulating for… the productivity of staff.
Here are examples of results that place UNDP-DRC ahead of the pack!
-Increased connectivity through fiber optic: dependance on the use of VSAT has been reduced in favor of internet connections through fiber optic. This solution is already operational in Kinshasa, Goma and Bukavu. The fiber optic environment provides more bandwidth for the same price and a more stable internet connection to work more efficiently. In terms of savings, the Country Office hopes for a $75,000 cost reduction in 12 months.
- The renewal of work tools: By replacing desktop computers, printers and others with low-consumption equipment such as laptops and multifunction printing devices, we help to increase staff productivity, reduce energy consumption and monitor spending while strengthening the management of assets and provisions.  The estimated savings are about $200,000 in 3 years.
- Creation of collaborative space - ISK: Collaborative office space developed by Headquarters – ISK (Internet Starter Kit) – was popularized for sharing and storing work documents. Staff data is more accessible anytime and from anywhere. The staff only need an internet connection. This allows the team greater mobility and increased productivity. It also allows for a reduction in local ICT structures with reduced servers.
- Innovations in administrative and financial management: More than 20 applications and workflows have been developed by the Country Office, several of them acknowledged as innovative by the private sector and requested by different country offices.  We are now in the process of sharing of these initiatives.  See example:
-Payment of benefits and wages via mobile money
-HACT database that now allows the pooling and data access assessment of implementation of partners that the three agencies UNDP, UNICEF and UNFPA have in common
-The Contract Management System
-The interactive electronic atlas of renewable energy in the DRC which was recently displayed on the UNDP “corporate" site
-The fleet management system for all office vehicles (motorcycles, buses, 4x4 and vans) with a geolocation system - the first tool of its kind in UNDP; it is in the deployment phase after a rigorous procurement process conducted in close collaboration with PSO (Procurement Support Office)
- The office in an ICT box: The ICT box is made of basic ICT equipment and allows telephone connectivity, a wireless connection and access to networks, all in a portable medium. This kit has the advantage of being easily and quickly deployed in a crisis. Developed in a cloud environment, it no longer needs physical data centers and participates in respect of the Country Office environment. “An ICT Box", will soon be installed in Kinshasa, Goma and Bukavu. The expected results are mainly increased mobility, free online calls, greater efficiency and a significant reduction in communication costs, since the land offices, Kinshasa and the Headquarters will be connected.
The results are good, the outlook is better!
The Country Office will continue such innovations, but not alone!
-The solar system for a Greener Office: The Country Office (BP) met with Mrs Anne Ferniest, the Greening Coordinator in BOM/ASD (Bureau of the Headquarters Management), to provide BP with solar panels and reduce the use of other energy sources.  The Ecology Unit has pledged support of 30,000 USD and graceful sending of a business in the DRC for the assessment of needs.

-A regional ICT Manager of level P3 based in DRC : To maintain the gains already achieved and given the complexity of ICT operations in the DRC and the size of the Kinshasa office (470 users, supporting over 30 sub-offices/project management offices outside Kinshasa, plus 370 users with remote support from the ICT team in Kinshasa, etc…), we would like to explore with the OIST/BoM to create a level of regional coordination of the P3 position based in Kinshasa, to be financed by OIST and RBA.
How much do we save?
In general, these initiatives contribute to a faster internet connection, provide great satisfaction in terms of user “user experience" during video conferences, and provide a resilient supply of electricity with fewer cuts and ubiquitous ICT systems.  Integrated together and in line with the UNDP “corporate" tools, these innovations significantly increase the productivity of the team and respect for the environment. In summary:
- 10% increase in productivity gains through faster internet connection, reduced power cuts and the possibility of being operational anywhere, allowing staff to work more efficiently and with less interruption. With an hourly rate of $76/hour, this can save $500k/month;
- Less travel required thanks to video conferences and more effective communication tools, such as Lync and VTC, generating significant savings in transport costs;
- Better work environment, improving team morale and encouraging their commitment to produce high quality work.

Louise ANDRE, Geneviève DELAUNOY, Amadou SOW

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