In Ethiopia, some 700,000 persons of concern—including refugees and asylum-seekers—live in camps and alongside their host communities. As regional instability continues, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) anticipates that few will be able to return home. And with Ethiopia maintaining its open-door asylum policy, it’s likely that persons of concern will continue arriving.
UNHCR partners with governmental agencies, nonprofits, and community organizations to ensure those it serves have access to shelter, emergency cash aid, education, career opportunities, healthcare, and more. Yet with the sheer scale of the problem—nearly 1 in 10 people worldwide is an at-risk “person of concern,” according to the agency—UNHCR needed to maximize its impact.
Yet on-the-ground conditions conspire against UNHCR’s mission to safeguard the rights and well-being of all refugees and other persons of concern.
Take, for example, Ethiopia. Although the government provides internet here, poor infrastructure and inconsistent power in rural areas mean refugee camps deal with unreliable or nonexistent connectivity.
The result: UNHCR first-line workers (those who have direct contact with refugees and other persons of concern) struggled to reach the productivity and efficiency they needed to serve up to 80,000 people in each camp. What’s more, dispatching experienced staff on days-long trips to fix broken equipment and faulty networks—or even reset passwords—strained IT departments and created major delays for field staff.
Beginning in 2018, then, UNHCR deployed Microsoft 365 cloud solutions in a pilot project, helping field staff to use new machines in mere minutes. UNHCR leadership already sees how technology empowers employees to continuously learn, collaborate more efficiently within teams, work securely across any device, and respond quickly to on-the-ground needs.
“We tested this pilot project in the places where conditions are the most challenging. It’s in those places where we will know if the system is going to work or not,” explains Arthemon Nkunzumwami, Information and Communication Technology Officer for the UNHCR sub-office in Gambella.
Photo credit: UNHCR/Rika Hakozaki
The pilot project in Ethiopia is just the beginning. By rolling out Windows 10 and Enterprise Mobility + Security solutions across 134 countries where it works, UNHCR will have better tools to help protect its beneficiaries’ private data, empower employees to work in remote conditions, and speed up the response to new emergencies and ongoing crises alike.
“The faster you provide services, the faster you help people of concern, and the more people you serve,” explains Nkunzumwami. “It’s a matter of humanity being lost or saved. That’s why it’s critically important to have IT systems in place as soon as possible—and that’s what we’re doing with Windows 10.”