The United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS) - an initiative of Secretary-General Kofi Annan - has been nominated to receive a Stockholm Challenge Award for its support of rehabilitation efforts in the wake of the devastating super cyclone that hit Orissa, India, in 1999.
The Stockholm Challenge is an annual awards programme highlighting initiatives in areas where information and communication technologies (ICT) have a great impact on people's lives. This year, the international jury reviewed a record number of 742 projects from 90 countries to select finalists. As one of the finalists in the "Health and Quality of Life" category, UNITeS has been invited by the City of Stockholm to participate in the final events that will take place from 23 to 26 September in Stockholm, Sweden.
The announcement was made in a statement issued today by the UN Volunteer programme (UNV), whose staff carry out the project in India. Working under the UNITeS umbrella, a team of eight national UN Volunteers set up local information kiosks where they collect and disseminate information about damage, needs, and aid activities to all parties involved in the rehabilitation effort. They also build capacity by training local citizens on relevant use of computers and the Internet.
As a result of the project, villagers now express their problems and needs by e-mail to their authorities. Self-help groups or district and state governments can take informed decisions on which relief activities to apply, and citizens read about government programmes, like pension or employment services, on the Internet. Volunteers also track weather patterns on web sites in efforts to avoid panic and provide early warning.
UNITeS is a global volunteer initiative with the aim to build individual and institutional capacities on the application of ICT to human development. It was announced by the Secretary-General in his Millennium Report in April 2000, and is managed by UNV, the volunteer arm of the UN system.