United Nations Agencies

Applying ICT to Support Refugees

UNHCR-Microsoft Partnership

Using technology to assist refugees worldwide

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Microsoft are partnering to use information and communications technology (ICT) to improve UNHCR operations and develop programs to help refugees rebuild their lives, store their data, and access new opportunities through education and connectivity. Together, UNHCR and Microsoft aim to embrace refugees as part of the worldwide community’s technology movement and support ICT education and learning in challenging environments.

In the partnership, Microsoft supports UNHCR by providing technological expertise, while UNHCR contributes its know-how in addressing challenging refugee issues. In more than five decades, UNHCR has helped an estimated 50 million people restart their lives. The agency today has a staff of approximately 6,500 people in 116 countries acting to help refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide.

Microsoft-UNESCO Partnership

Partnership Programs:

ProGres Refugee Registration Platform

During the Kosovo refugee crisis in 1999, UNHCR, Microsoft employees, and other partners developed a mobile registration system to provide more than a half million refugees with new identification documents. This system evolved into the ProGres database, which has since been implemented globally.

Through ProGres, refugees are systematically registered upon arrival. This helps improve refugee-camp management by accurately determining the size and composition of refugee populations and their need for assistance. ProGres issues identification cards, records addresses for refugees living outside camps, issues voluntary repatriation forms, and identifies people with special needs, such as unaccompanied minors or the elderly.

ProGres creates a standardized system for refugee registration, replacing dozens of old, incompatible databases. ProGres is used by 300 camps and 72 countries, including 32 countries in Africa. ProGres has been used by 5 million refugees.

Council of Business Leaders

Microsoft is among the founding members of the UNHCR Council of Business Leaders (CBL), launched at the World Economic Forum, Davos, in January 2005. The council aims to foster innovative public-private partnerships, better coordinate corporate investments, and help UNHCR find new sources of private-sector funding and public-private partnerships.

Regular missions to the field are organized for the CBL to better understand the reality of UNHCR’s work and identify real opportunities for collaboration. Since the founding of the CBL, members have participated in regular missions to refugee camps in East Africa, Mozambique, Thailand, Namibia, and South Africa.


Together, UNHCR, Right to Play, Nike, and Microsoft launched the Ninemillion.org campaign on World Refugee Day, June 20, 2006. The campaign is aimed at raising awareness of the plight of refugee children, developing greater understanding of their long-term needs, and raising funds for educational and sporting opportunities in refugee camps.

Microsoft supported the Ninemillion.org campaign through MSN, the Microsoft online media network, to provide advertising media, editorial, and promotional support for the campaign. MSN also featured the campaign on local portal and Microsoft Hotmail sites in 10 markets across Europe, and on the popular MSN channel, "Road to the World Cup."

Windows Live Messenger is also cooperating with Ninemillion.org in the "I’M Making a Difference" campaign. When MSN Messenger users start a conversation through the I’M Web site, part of the advertising revenue is donated to Ninemillion.org.

Community Technology Access

In 2004, Microsoft and UNHCR began providing IT training opportunities for refugees in Russia and Kenya through the Community Technology Learning Centers (CTLC) initiative. Building on this experience, Microsoft and UNHCR launched the Community Technology Access (CTA) program.

Global in scope, CTA provides refugees with access to ICT skills, equipment, and technical support in rural, camp-based settings and hosting communities. The goal is to improve the self-reliance and employability of refugees and other UNHCR persons of concern through access to education, vocational training, and livelihood through technology.

CTA is currently under pilot at Kiziba camp in Rwanda, where refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo have resided for more than 12 years. The CTA program has also been implemented at the Kutupalong and Nayapara camps in Bangladesh, which have hosted refugees from Myanmar for the past 16 years.

World Refugee Day

UNHCR and Microsoft Student partnered in 2009 to raise funds on Facebook Causes in support of UNHCR’s Gimme Shelter campaign for World Refugee Day (June 20).

The Gimme Shelter campaign was launched in 2008 with a series of short films directed by Ben Affleck and filmed by John Toll. Gimme Shelter seeks to raise funds and awareness for UNHCR emergencies.

Microsoft Student donated US$1 for every person who joined the Gimme Shelter cause and matched dollar-for-dollar donations made on the Causes platform. The campaign was a tremendous success, with more than 100,000 members reached—18,000 of whom joined in the first five days—and more than $54,000 raised with Microsoft support.

Supporting Capacity-Building to Help Manage Climate Change

UNEP and Microsoft

Addressing environmental issues by providing access to data and planning for sustainable development.

Today’s complex environmental challenges, such as climate change and pollution, increasingly require a comprehensive global response from both the public and private sector. As part of broader efforts to build global partnerships for development, Microsoft and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have joined forces to pool their expertise and explore how technology can help address the impact of climate change in innovative ways.

Microsoft is committed to environmental responsibility, and to bringing forward new technology to help people and key environmental actors like UNEP address environmental challenges.

UNEP and Microsoft are cooperating to support programs in UNEP’s six priority areas, which include:

  • Climate change
  • Disasters and conflicts
  • Ecosystem management
  • Environmental governance
  • Harmful substances and hazardous waste
  • Resource efficiency
UNEP-Microsoft Partnership Profile

Partnership Programs:

Research4Life: Access to Environmental Information for Researchers

UNEP and Microsoft are partners in Research4Life, a program that provides developing countries with an important source of free and low-cost online scientific information in the areas of health, agriculture, and the environment.

To date, more than 130 publishers are providing free access to over 7,500 scientific journals, books, and databases to make global scientific research available online to scientists, doctors, researchers, and policy makers in 108 of the poorest developing countries. This access enables them to refer to the latest knowledge as they train, conduct research, and make policy. UNEP, one of three supporting UN partners, is helping provide access to academic journals in the fields of environmental academic research through Online Access to Research in the Environment (OARE). As Research4Life’s technology partner, Microsoft designed the technology infrastructure that supports the program. Microsoft involvement helps Research4Life meet expanded demand and perform at the standards of today's most heavily trafficked Web sites.

Case study: Achieving Sustainable Watersheds

ICT Policy - National Environmental Information Infrastructure

UNEP and Microsoft are supporting National Environmental Information Infrastructure (EII), which provides tools, data standardization, and capacity building to improve environmental decision-making. Online platforms, supported through Microsoft technology, enable national environmental institutions, intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to better share and interpret their data.

The partners will also work to help key decision-makers address issues, such as the recycling of e-waste, and to promote environmental outreach, education, and awareness-raising through tools like the Internet.

Environment Information Systems for Environmental Actors

UNEP and Microsoft place special emphasis on managing, visualizing, and facilitating access to environmental information. In addition to helping researchers, the partnership aims to help governments use technology to address environmental challenges, and to foster broader cooperation among environmental stakeholders.

One of these programs is Proteus, a partnership for Web service automation of the World’s Database on Protected Areas (WDPA). This online database allows for enhanced interaction with important geospatial data that helps companies avoid infringing on the world’s protected areas, and enables them to prioritize recovery from environmentally damaging events, such as oil spills and mining tailings. With Microsoft support, the database is currently undergoing a major infrastructure update to make it more effective and easier to use by a wide range of environmental actors.

Collaboration on Environmental Policy Development

Microsoft Research has also joined UNEP as a primary partner to help leading science and research organizations make fundamental contributions to the science of the environment. By developing research tools, the Microsoft Research Cambridge facility and UNEP are assisting policymakers’ decision-making in important areas regarding food and water security, and how it will affect the short-term and long-term human and animal migration patterns.

The Cambridge facility seeks to better understand the earth’s life-support system by developing software computational models and using high-performance computing in data centers around the world. These models are then used to predict and mitigate potential changes that occur as a result of human activity. The research analyzes and visualizes data on local and global scales, and it has been used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as a climate prediction model.

Transforming Education Through Technology

Microsoft-UNESCO Partnership

Using technology resources and tools to help people realize their potential

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Microsoft are working together to support the use of technology to transform education, reduce poverty, and help address the digital divide. Both UNESCO and Microsoft believe that education is the cornerstone of social and economic opportunity, and that efforts to help people realize their full potential must begin here.

A particular area of focus for the partnership is the global Education for All (EFA) movement. EFA, led by UNESCO, aims to meet the personalized learning needs of all children, youth, and adults by 2015. UNESCO, along with other government, civil society, and private partners, help execute the partnership’s projects to promote socio-economic development and an equitable knowledge society around the world. Microsoft is collaborating in three of UNESCO’s four core pillars: education, culture, and communication and information.

  • Read a UNESCO-Microsoft Partnership profile
  • Microsoft PressPass: UNESCO and Microsoft Announce Higher Education ICT Task Force

Partnership Programs:

Innovative Teachers Program

UNESCO and Microsoft are working together to bring the Innovative Teachers program (ITP) and its online community, the Innovative Teachers Network (ITN), to the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle-East, and Europe. As part of the program, UNESCO, local educational authorities, and Microsoft are developing projects that include information technology in teachers’ training, in partnership with teachers’ colleges, academic institutes, and schools of education through the Next Generation of Teachers (NET) initiative.

The priorities of the ITP include creating a platform to advance best practices and innovation, providing training and access to technology resources, engaging with teachers, and increasing their confidence to use technology in the learning process.

The program organizes regional Innovative Teachers Forums (ITF) and awards, which are held every year in different countries. The forums bring together teachers from the region—selected through national competitions—to build a global network.

UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers

Microsoft, along with industry partners Intel and CISCO, and the International Society for Teacher Education (ISTE), worked closely with UNESCO to develop the UNESCO information and communications technology (ICT) Competency Framework for Teachers (CFT). This resource provides guidance on quality teacher training and how to best use ICT in the classroom. The framework aims to improve the way teachers teach by using technology—resulting in better education and more highly skilled students to advance economic and social development.

The initiative applies, for the first time, clear criteria and standards for applying ICT in the classroom, regardless of where the classroom is located. The first phase of the CFT project was completed in late 2007. The Competency Framework—presented in a set of three booklets—was launched in January 2008. It provides a syllabus as the key reference for training-providers, listing guidelines on what teachers should know to apply ICT to education in their own creative ways. It also provides examples of how to train teachers to achieve this.

UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers

UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers

UNESCO and Microsoft also collaborate at the country level to support the local application of ICT in education. In Brazil, UNESCO’s field office is working with Microsoft Brazil to assess the implementation of Microsoft activities related to the Partners in Learning (PiL) program to help train teachers to use ICT in the classroom. The assessment identified areas of success and impact, and also areas for improvement through a survey of local education and government officials.

UNESCO Brazil is also partnering with Microsoft Education in the Innovative Schools Program, a research and evaluation initiative. This program is taking steps toward enhancing student-centered, innovative teaching. It includes the increased use of projects for student learning, greater collaboration opportunities for students, integration of technology and teaching, and reformed student assessment.

Community Multimedia Centers

Microsoft is supporting UNESCO’s Community Multimedia Centers (CMCs) in Senegal, Mali, and Mozambique by upgrading the community radio facilities and providing computers, training, and multimedia curricula. CMCs offer services like photocopying, printing, typing, and other local government services. The centers also function as vocational training hubs for awareness campaigns, with a specific focus on female empowerment.

Under the CMC program, UNESCO aims to help establish 50 centers in each country. In many communities, the community radio station is a vital and informative source of news and knowledge on a diverse range of topics, including health, market prices, safety, and education. It has also helped increase the technical and teaching skills for community-level trainers.

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