By Enrica Porcari, Chief Information Officer and Director of the Technology Division
At the World Food Programme we recognise that partnerships are key to ensuring that we can deliver a more effective and efficient response to the food and nutritional needs of some of the hungriest people in the world.
Our mission is to serve the needs of the 821 million hungry people in the world, and we have been tireless in our search for partnerships with industry leaders in the private sector who can enhance our reach and improve our delivery of humanitarian assistance.
The private sector offers a range of digital analytical solutions that were previously unavailable to us and like many humanitarian organisations, WFP, has actively sought their expertise.
The sheer scale of WFP’s operations, assisting some 90 million people, means that even small efficiencies in operational and supply chain management can lead to important savings. WFP generates vast amounts of data through the purchasing of 3 million metric tons of food every year and the delivery of 15 billion rations across the world in more than 80 countries.
Our logistics and supply chain teams have worked with the support of Palantir to introduce efficiencies in the purchasing and delivery of food, bringing savings of more than US$30 million in a pilot programme. If taken to scale across WFP’s global operations these gains could potentially provide food assistance for tens of millions of additional people.
As one of the largest humanitarian agencies in the world, working on behalf of vulnerable populations often in very complex environments, we also use technology to protect beneficiary information and data confidentiality remains the non-negotiable cornerstone of our work. WFP’s beneficiary data is held in a secure system, hosted on UN premises, that is subject to regular, independent stress tests and verification. This system is continuously reviewed and strengthened to keep up with industry best practice.
Any data analytics partner we work with understands clearly that this is our starting point and we are unwilling to compromise. This is part of our humanitarian mandate and it is coded within the very DNA of WFP.
WFP has developed data privacy policies and our partners must agree with our principles.
The announcement of our partnership with Palantir has prompted commentary and questions, so I would like to provide some context and explanation.
We can say definitively that Palantir — like any other partner — understands our commitment to protecting humanitarian principles and data privacy values and has agreed to our rules of engagement:
· No access to WFP data that provides beneficiary information.
· Palantir does not provide data to WFP, nor does it collect it on WFP’s behalf. It only helps analysing data that is not in any way related to beneficiary information.
· WFP maintains strict control of its systems and decides which data sets are provided to its partners and for what purposes.
· The Palantir partnership is dedicated solely to improving operational efficiency at WFP.
· Palantir will treat our content as confidential, not use it for commercial benefit, will not engage in “data mining” of WFP data or share it with anyone unless expressly authorized in writing by WFP.
· WFP retains full control over the data, the analysis and derivative work.
· WFP creates partnerships based on the needs of the organization, and our approach to partnerships follows UN-wide guidance. Each company that is being considered for partnership goes through a thorough due diligence process.
With these checks and balances in place, WFP believes it is in a good position to explore the boundaries of what digital transformation can offer when it comes to improving delivery of humanitarian assistance to the millions that we serve.
We recognise that there is a risk that comes with any kind of innovation, but we also bear the responsibility to minimise that risk and realise the benefits that can be accrued if partnerships are managed correctly. WFP is adopting the highest level of information management and security standards.
WFP welcomes a mature debate on responsible use of data in the humanitarian sector founded on facts and not on speculations. We wholeheartedly hope that the conversation on this subject continues and we pledge to be a central part of it.
Recognizing the domain of data management is an evolving and critical field and affects all of us, WFP looks forward to working with humanitarian data stakeholders to review models for responsible management of data and collaboration with private sector partners at the level of the humanitarian ecosystem.