New app offers lifeline to staff under threat around the world

With migration high on the political agenda around the world, what’s often overlooked is the danger faced by those who have to deal with it; the people sent into some of the most hazardous places to help stave off humanitarian crises – and it’s a role that’s not going away any time soon, which is why a new app developed in England has so much to offer…

Order pizza, monitor fitness, or even control expense management – the uses to which mobile phone apps are being put are almost without number.

So it’s reassuring to note that Sheffield Hallam University has launched one with a very serious role – protecting the safety and security of the UN’s International Organization for Migration’s 10,000 staff while they’re deployed in world’s most challenging environments in as many as 150 countries.

The team at the University’s Centre of Excellence in Terrorism, Resilience and Organised Crime Research, known as CENTRIC, has worked with the IOM to develop the security-focussed situational awareness dashboard and app.

Safe and secure with SCAAN
The project is called SCAAN, which stands for Security Communications and Analysis Network. The app helps to keep staff safe and secure by keeping them up to date during crises and emergencies.

Its dashboard also allows the staff members to report problems to IOM’s security team, which operates around the clock in Manila, and get an instant response. The SCAAN app and dashboard uses GPS, direct messaging, calls and reporting features to provide urgent assistance to IOM field staff working in inhospitable and dangerous parts of the world.

With over 10,000 staff operating in more than 150 countries, IOM, the UN Migration Agency, launched SCAAN at an event in Sheffield.

Security paramount
IOM Director-General William Swing, pictured, who says it’s important that the positive side of migration needs to be told, said: “The security of our 10,000 staff worldwide is of paramount importance and remains a priority for me and the organisation.”

IOM’s Global Head of Security Willie Wairoa-Harrison said: “With security challenges increasing worldwide, the safety of staff working in hostile conditions is essential. Working with CENTRIC in developing this state-of-the-art tool means that any staff member facing danger can instantly alert us with detailed information enabling a rapid response.”

Tony Day, CENTRIC’s lead developer on SCAAN, said: “The SCAAN dashboard and app is advancing from development, testing and piloting and is currently being rolled out as a pre-release globally to relevant IOM field staff.

“It is vitally important to IOM staff to have timely and accurate information on emerging situations locally and globally, as well as the ability to ensure that they are accounted for wherever they may be. With SCAAN, they will be able to instantly share details with IOM on their location, their safety and relevant updates from the ground.

“The aim is to eventually roll this out to other areas of the United Nations and their partners.”

SCAAN was launched at the event by IOM’s Global Head of Staff Security Willie Wairoa-Harrison, Community Engagement Programme Manager Amy Rhoades and Professor Babak Akhgar, Director of CENTRIC.

Picture: International Organization for Migration