The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has over 5 million registered refugees requiring education, healthcare and social safety assistance, among others. UNRWA aids refugees across five countries – namely Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank, Syria, and the Gaza Strip which has over 500,000 students, 692 schools as of now, and hundreds of primary health facilities.
In order to automate several processes across the region, the team based in Gaza had already developed the Education Management Information System (EMIS) consisting of three modules (students, staff and premises) and reporting tools. EMIS captures information and manages the educational progress of half a million students, by integrating data from registration, health, facility management and human resources systems that are already in existence.
Yet, given the numbers and scale of its operations, a central data model that has the capacity to integrate data from several entities was the need of the hour to support its regional operations and EMIS. To transform their information management system, UNRWA and Capgemini used WSO2 technology to create a model which mirrors UNRWA’s organizational ethos – placing the refugees at the heart of all their operations.
“The technology is there, but it’s really about the people,” says Francesco Lacoboni, Managing Consultant at Capgemini. Accordingly, the main drivers of the new UNRWA Enterprise Architecture are built upon the strategic principles of people, information, collaboration, and security. People influence how the information is created, managed, and consumed. The platform is an information-centric one – rather than managing documents, it manages open data and content. Its shared approach design aims to improve collaboration, reduce costs, maintain standards, and ensure consistency across the board. Security and privacy features for data protection round off the principles of this platform.
Before the new model was introduced, there was a time where the information that streamed through the system was physically replicated via the transaction log. For reasons of ease and efficiency, UNRWA and Capgemini decided to provide a common set of APIs to all the developers, not only to fulfill the needs of the specific application, but to also create the framework for future use of this semantic concept. Every entity has a credible API that can be used to navigate the knowledge, eliminating the need to design a new API. The resultant Common Data Model (CDM) was created using OWL (Web Ontology Language), and its architecture and governance completed using WSO2’s integration and API management platforms.
For Luca Baldini, Chief of Information Management Services at UNRWA, it was the first time such an approach was used and now that it has been rolled out, he praises its benefits: “The new model has been very productive, as it created a common language between IT specialists and our business representatives. We can use different kinds of technology for data retrieval and distribution.” Francesco believes one of the main benefits of the new model is that it helps increase the transparency of UNRWA’s operations. Now that the new model is successfully in practice, analytics is the next frontier and they hope to leverage WSO2’s analytics capabilities to meet their requirements. Spurred by the possibilities of analytics, plans are in the pipeline to use this data model along with unstructured data provided from the field to improve operations and add further value.
You can watch Luca’s and Francesco’s presentation at WSO2Con USA 2017 to hear more about their project.