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Strategizing the Best Disaster Recovery Plans
By Daniel Couture, CIO, Unicef
Several aspects of UNICEF’s Disaster Response and Recovery Depend on ICTs:
1. Disaster response mainly revolves around deployment of staff and resources to save children’s lives. This requires the rapid deployment of the ICT services that emergency responders need to work in remote areas that are often difficult to access. Our ICT services in such scenarios mainly consist of data communications over mobile or fixed quick-deploy satellite terminals, pre-built as pre-stocked kits. They also include security communications for staff and vehicles, typically based on two-way VHF/UHF radio and Mobile Satellite Services (MSS), such as Iridium, Thuraya, and Inmarsat.
2. Disaster recovery primarily revolves around re-establishing the most critical ICT services during and after a disaster, at the same or in an alternate location.
Disaster recovery primarily revolves around re-establishing the most critical ICT services during and after a disaster, at the same or in an alternate location
In such situations, MSS, quick-deploy VSAT terminals, and radio communications are employed.
Maintaining a well-trained staff body with the right skill sets to deploy ICTs for response and recovery is critical. On an annual basis, UNICEF conducts Emergency ICT preparedness and response training of ICT staff, drawing together around 40 to 50 ICT responders from UNICEF offices worldwide. It provides far-ranging, practical benefits to staff and offices in both response and recovery scenarios.
Our organizational disaster resilience is critical to ensure continuous services to others. Therefore, a revolutionary movement in our disaster response and recovery strategy was the centralizing of some global ICT services in the Cloud while consolidating others in our own comprehensive data centers. To ensure business continuity, we equipped the primary and secondary data centers to operate in parallel warranting that at least one, if not both, is readily available in the event of a major disruption. All mission-critical systems and services are running in high availability mode.
The Business Continuity Approach
In the field, however, the approach to business continuity is highly decentralized, designed to increase the autonomy of field offices and response teams, significantly reduce dependency on headquarters. Field offices are therefore empowered to take maximum advantage of new technologies in voice and data communications. However, our policies and standards, set by Headquarters, are designed to ensure that field offices have up-to-date hardware, software, training, and resources to create locally sustainable ICT systems.
The resilience and ability of a workplace to recover from ICT service interruption depend on its level of planning and vigilance. To support that process, we illustrated a detailed ICT disaster recovery plan that is updated, tested and validated regularly. In an emergency, quick and reliable, in-country communication is of paramount significance. Data and voice communications, as well as other mission-critical systems and services, are outlined in field office ICT disaster recovery plans. All our offices are equipped to handle minor or temporary disruptions using remote access, when necessary.
Although we have merely explored the main pillars of ICT as an enabler in disaster response, other aspects of our ICT Strategy are equally important to ensure solutions that agile, localized, connected, and scalable. Beyond setting a framework for response action, the ICT function is now more than just a back-office utility, as implied by the SDGs which embrace the ICT sector as a strategic partner and business enabler. In the same vein, the UNICEF ICT strategy similarly aims to build and strengthen partnerships to successfully implement programs through the effective use of innovative, technology-enabled solutions to achieve improved outcomes for children.