I’m back in the Sudan to continue my work with the UNDP’s Threat and Risk Mapping Analysis (TRMA) project. UN agencies typically suffer from what a colleague calls “Data Hugging Disorder (DHD),” i.e., they rarely share data. This is generally the rule, not the exception.
There is an exception, however: the recently established UN’s Information Management Working Group (IMWG) in the Sudan. The general goal of the IMWG is to “facilitate the development of a coherent information management approach for the UN Agencies and INGOs in Sudan in close cooperation with local authorities and institutions.”
More specifically, the IMWG seeks to:
- Support and advise the UNDAF Technical Working Groups and Work Plan sectors in the accessing and utilization of available data for improved development planning and programming;
- Develop/advise on the development of, a Sudan-specific tool, or set of tools, to support decentralized information-sharing and common GIS mapping, in such a way that it will be consistent with the DevInfo system development, and can eventually be adopted/integrated as a standard plug-in for the same.
To accomplish these goals, the IMWG will collectively assume a number of responsibilities including the following:
- Agree on information sharing protocols, including modalities of shared information update;
- Review current information management mechanisms to have a coherent approach.
The core members of the working group include: IOM, WHO, FAO, UNICEF, UNHCR, UNPFA, WFP, OCHA and UNDP.
Information Sharing Protocol
These members recently signed and endorsed an “Information Sharing Protocol”. The protocol sets out the preconditions, the responsibilities and the rights of the IMWG members for sharing, updating and accessing the data of the information providers.
With this protocol, each member commits to sharing specific datasets, in specific formats and at specific intervals. The data provided is classified as either public access or classified accessed. The latter is further disaggregated into three categories:
- UN partners only;
- IMWG members only;
- [Agency/group] only.
There is also a restricted access category, which is granted on a case-by-case basis only.
UNDP’s role (via TRMA) in the IMWG is to technically support the administration of the information-sharing between IMWG members. More specifically, UNDP will provide ongoing technical support for the development and upgrading of the IMWG database tool in accoardance with the needs of the Working Group.
In addition, UNDP’s role is to receive data updates, to update the IMWG tool and to circulate data according to classification of access as determined by individual contributing agencies. Would a more seemless information sharing approach might work; one in which UNDP does not have to be the repository of the data let alone manually update the information?
In any case, the very existence of a UN Information Management Working Group in the Sudan suggests that Data Hugging Disorders (DHDs) can be cured.