When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Mongolia, lockdown prevented people from collecting wages in the informal economies as they normally do. Photo: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe


As governments and UNDP country offices rose to meet the challenge of urgent response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UNDP’s Chief Digital Office (CDO) launched a new support service to provide rapid digital solutions to problems facing country offices. The initiative was generously supported by the Government of Japan.

The service provides immediate support for urgent and important problems facing country offices. As a global digital helpdesk, the service connects and supplies the relevant people, resources, and solutions to local challenges and ideas. 

With funding from the Government of Japan, CDO has responded to over 90 requests from over 60 country offices. Here are just three examples to illustrate how the service creates positive impact.

Case management system for Mongolia’s social workers

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Mongolia, lockdown prevented people from collecting wages in the informal economies as they normally do. As a result, the number of people categorized as vulnerable ballooned to include people who hadn’t been previously targeted for social services. UNDP’s Mongolia office realized that a better case management system was needed to track both vulnerable and risk-sensitive groups.

The Mongolia country office came to the CDO with their idea, looking for help on how to get started building a prototype. The CDO worked with the Mongolia country office to understand what kind of program Mongolian social workers needed, including features and functionalities. Then, the CDO developed recommendations for a digital case management tool for people whose lives and livelihoods were imperiled by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown. 

The resulting tool is Mongolian language software for data collection (including geolocation data), used on a tablet that syncs data once internet is available. The software provides a quick overview of cases, and allows social workers to search according to age, name, address, and needs. The tool also allows social workers to sort cases into folders and categories. Data privacy concerns were handled according to global best practice: not all users can access all data, and location data in particular is sensitively handled.

In the process, the CDO and the Mongolia country office engaged in knowledge sharing about the Digital Transformation Framework. The digital case management program is an important first step in the accelerated use of digital for development in Mongolia. 

Conservation app to protect Papua New Guinea’s rainforests

Papua New Guinea is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, home to an estimated 200,000+ species of plants and animals. Papua New Guinea’s Protected Areas are critical to the country’s economy and to the ecological wealth of the country, but very little data exists on how those areas are managed – or which species even live there. COVID-19 has compounded the problem, making it hard for park rangers and Protected Area community managers to document their findings. 

Working with the CDO, the Papua New Guinea country office developed their idea for a mobile application. The app supports government officials, environmental NGO workers, donors, and law enforcement to collect data along four verticals:

  • Protected area management effectiveness (including budgets and financial information)

  • Natural resource collection / usage

  • Poaching, illegal logging, and other illicit activity 

  • Biodiversity information

Ultimately, this will allow for improved understanding of Protected Area management, better allocation of money and resources, better tracking of biodiversity, and more effective monitoring and prosecution of illicit activity. 

With CDO support, the Papua New Guinea country office went from developing a concept note about one conservation app to launching an early version of the app. In 2021, the project will increase the app’s functionality, pilot test within three Protected Areas and be embedded in a national biodiversity fund. 

Data management upskilling for 15 members of Georgia country office

In July 2020, the Georgia country office approached UNDP’s CDO office with a data quandary. Gathering data wasn’t the issue – they had a great deal of data on a number of vital programs, especially in light of COVID-19. The trouble was, they had been relying on external firms for data analysis, and they knew they could do it more efficiently in-house. 

The CDO worked with the Georgia country office to build their data analysis capacity. By developing a better understanding of current staff capacity, CDO worked to define the exact learning and training support needs. 

A shortlist of data management training providers was compiled and the Georgia country office selected their preferred training partner. Fifteen country officers were selected to undergo the training. These officers upskilled in Microsoft’s Power BI software, empowering them to clean, analyze, and visualize data. 

The training lasted only a matter of weeks, but nevertheless country officers universally reported satisfaction and increased data fluency as a result. Not only can the country office do more data analysis in-house, but they feel more confident assessing the analysis work they procure from external partners as well.