Question 2

Is the UN ready for the Digital Age? What does it do well, and what can it do better? How has it marshaled new digital technology so far?

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  • Mahra Rashed AlShamsi

    Technology has become an integral part of any organizations in the 21st century. Through technology, organizations can enhance their communication, people management, resource management, and research and development. For global organizations such as the United Nations, technology plays a critical role in supporting communication and services over wide geographical locations and the needs of its various programs. While the United Nations has made important strides in the adoption of technology, several areas need improvement to attain the full potential of technology at the organization, especially during the current digital age.

    The United Nations has invested heavily in technology to ensure that it meets the needs of the complex modern-day humanitarian needs. According to Sandvik, Jumbert, Karlsrud, and Kaufmann (2014), investment in major projects that focus on humanitarian technologies, as well as internal organizational efficiency, shows that the United States in ready for the digital age. Technology adoption is evident in its people supervision, logistics administration, and communication management among other functions in the organization.

    The United Nations is doing well in terms of technology readiness and adoption. Firstly, the organization, in recognition to the critical role of talented human resource, has embraced technology in the recruitment of its employees. Burns (2015) notes that application, short-listing, and other activities are undertaken and communicated over the Internet. In this case, the organization is able to tap into a global pool of potential employees via its Internet-enabled platform (Sandvik et al., 2014). The approach ensures that the organization recruits the most endowed individuals who can support its programs. The United Nations has operations, missions, and programs in almost all countries in the world. According to Sandvik and Lohne (2014), in some cases, the organization has activities in very remote areas of the world, which are difficult to access and with limited communication network with the outside world. In such cases, while Internet connectivity and other communication technologies are limited, the United Nations avoids the shortcomings by using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) (Sandvik & Lohne, 2014). Through the technology, it can track the movement of goods and services meant for humanitarian response, thus enhancing its logistics management. Additionally, the organization is able to map key areas, for instance, during emergencies, to coordinate humanitarian response efforts.

    However, the UN needs to improve some areas to ensure it achieves the full potential of technology. Firstly, as an organization, which responds to many issues affecting humanity, it has to process large amounts of information to ensure it is responsive to the needs of the populations it serves (Burns, 2015). For instance, during the Haitian earthquake disaster, the UN received one informational email per minute. However, it lacked the capacity to process such large amounts of information (Sandvik & Lohne, 2014). Therefore, it is important for the organization to put in place measures, which will allow it to process, store, and use information to enhance its response activities.

    Conclusively, it is evident that the United Nations has so far marshaled the new digital technology to the extent that it has invested heavily in it to support core activities in areas such as people, logistics, and communication management. For instance, as above-mentioned, its recruitment processes are anchored on technology. The use of the GPS technology has allowed the organization to map and manage activities in remote areas. However, to seal some of the witnessed gaps in its adoption of the new digital technology, the organization should strive to put in place processes that will enhance its ability to receive and process large volumes of data in its possession.

    References
    Burns, R. (2015). Rethinking big data in digital humanitarianism: Practices, epistemologies, and social relations. GeoJournal, 80(4), 477-490.
    Sandvik, K. B., & Lohne, K. (2014). The rise of the humanitarian drone: Giving content to an emerging concept. Millennium, 43(1), 145-164.
    Sandvik, K. B., Jumbert, M. G., Karlsrud, J., & Kaufmann, M. (2014). Humanitarian technology: A critical research agenda. International Review of the Red Cross, 96(893), 219-242.

  • Muna Mana Al Otaiba

    Technology has brought with it a lot of developments in the contemporary world. The effect of its development is so huge that many aspects of global activities and lives depend on it. In this discussion, the intention is to find out the way the United Nations as a global organization has been influenced by the digital age and to the extent in which the UN is using technology towards achieving its global objectives.

    The digital age is a phenomenon which is rife in the contemporary society and as such, the players in various industries all over the world need to have adapted with its presence or if not, then they should be planning ways on ways that they can incorporate the digital age in their activities. The United Nations is a global body and what this means is that during its existence, most of the activities mirror the preferences of the organization’s members. The presence of technologically developed countries as some of the major members of the United Nations means that these nations also bring about their technological know-how to the organization. In addition, the organization also ranks its members on how prevalent technology is in them and as such, the United Nations is not only ready for the digital age, but it is actually in the digital age (UN News, 2017a).

    One of the greatest areas where the United Nations plays a key role is in peacekeeping, especially in regions of conflict in the world. This is another area where the United Nations has shown that it is a significant user of technology in contemporary times. Various aspects of the digital age have played an important role in helping the troops in various missions to gather intelligence while at the same time conduct surveillance activities using equipment such as drones to ensure that they are well prepared to whatever missions they have (UN News, 2017b.).

    There are various ways through the United Nations is implementing technology during its activities. The organization is currently using virtual reality to come up with solutions to some of the problems that affect the contemporary society (Swant, 2015). Currently, virtual reality is quite a big phenomenon to many enthusiasts in the digital age. What the United Nations has done in relation to this is teaming up with some of the makers of virtual reality kits to come up with short films which bring to light some of the most relevant problems which are plaguing the world (Harris, 2015). The main idea in this case is to raise awareness of what the world and the people in it are facing. Some of the most relevant issues highlighted in relation to this include climate change and the current refugee crisis in Syria (Ventura Beat).

    The United Nations is a body which seeks to promote world peace and understanding. This is something which ought to be done regardless of the means. One of the best ways to do this is through technology. Currently, online presence is something very big all over the world. The UN can harness the various online forums that are there for purposes of ensuring that it communicates its message of peace to as many users as possible in a continuous manner to ensure that the message the organization seeks to send reaches the intended audience and in time (Fletcher, 2017).

    The United Nations is indeed trying to keep at par with the various changes which are happening in the field of technology. This is something which is of great benefit not only to the activities of the organization but also the global population. This is especially considering the significant role that this body plays in the world. Looking at the developments in the contemporary world, it is indeed true that the United Nations is a major player in the digital age. Finally, the organization needs to embrace and leverage on the many online platforms present to ensure that its message reaches many target audiences.

    References
    • Fletcher, T. (2017). Can Technology Help the UN Meet the Challenges of the 21st Century?. United Networks, 1-31.
    • Harris, B. (2015). How the United Nations Is Using Virtual Reality To Tackle Real-World Problems. Fast Company. Retrieved 1 June 2017, from https://www.fastcompany.com/3051672/how-the-united-nations-is-using-virtual-reality-to-tackle-real-world-problems
    • Swant, M. (2015). How the United Nations Is Using Virtual Reality to Boost Global Diplomacy. Adweek.com. Retrieved 1 June 2017, from http://www.adweek.com/digital/how-united-nations-using-virtual-reality-boost-global-diplomacy-167382/
    • UN News. (2017). UN News – Information technology use rises as price of communications services drops – UN. UN News Service Section. Retrieved 1 June 2017, from http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=39564#.WS_FlWh9600
    • UN News. (2017). UN News – Technology boost for UN peacekeepers ‘essential’ in rapidly evolving, complex world – UN experts. UN News Service Section. Retrieved 1 June 2017, from http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=50155#.WS_Fr2h9600
    • United Nations using Google technology to fight climate change. (2016). VentureBeat. Retrieved 1 June 2017, from https://venturebeat.com/2016/07/22/united-nations-using-google-technology-to-fight-climate-change/

  • Nouf Ali AlTeneiji

    Everybody enjoys the internet and the benefits that come with it and indeed no one can deny the impacts as at the time we are living in. Take for example in school, we deliver our assignments online and communicate to the professors on emails. Amongst the students, we have social media the likes of facebook, twitter, flicker, whatsapp among many more platforms. We have internet on our phones, laptops, iphones, Ipads and many other electronic gadgets. Therefore, we are literally swimming in the digital age. No one thus can deny the presence and the effects of internet and the digital systems on us not even the United Nations. This however is not to say we are using the digital technologies in the right way or the wrong and begs the question, is the UN ready for the digital age. This question cannot have a clear-cut answer as to say yes or no but rather cuts across the two sides. Therefore, we would say depending on which side of the coin one looks at it, the international community is ready or not. There are reasons to justify either side. In saying yes, we can talk of rapid connections and ease of communication and in saying no we can talk of issues of privacy and universal human rights.

    The UN holds several video conferences across the world where world leaders connect online to discuss ideas touching on the world. The UN secretary general has many occasions held video conferences with world leaders especially during crises to reach amicable and quick solutions to avert serious dangers in the world. The UN website has several video conferences, which assert to the same and the news channels that we watch also show the same. It thus implies that the UN is ready and embracing the digital age.

    In terms of connectivity, we have broadband connecting various UN offices in the world under their own cables thus making work easier for the international body. The UN thus is part of the digital age and embraces the same by using the various platforms that come with it. We too have the UN social sites as well as intranet system, which only work within its systems, and so the UN is ready for the digital age.

    Everything that has an advantage must always have a disadvantage and so is the digital system that comes with the digital age. The UN just like the others users of internet is fast grappling with the issues of human rights in regards to access of information on private matters over the internet in the digital age. There technologies that many are developing for surveillance and interception of information from individuals which is quite dangerous as private information ends up being public and at the same curtails personal freedom and will. There are governments and the US is one such culprit that has in the past used technology to intercept personal information over the internet but unfortunately, the UN has little influence on the same. The various panel discussions on the same topic by the UN has only received commitments but there is no specific law that would force any country to reveal the type of information that they collect from their citizens only demanding of them to do so with critical concerns which is not good enough.

    Therefore, taking the argument from the rights perspective the UN still has to do more to cope with the digital age. To come handle the digital age in a practical way the UN needs to come up with an online monitoring system, which connects, to the systems of various countries to censor information shared especially on issues privacy. The UN also can liaise with ICT firms to see to it that they sign a code of conduct and adhere to it such that sharing of private information becomes an outright illegality.