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UN DPI launches the UN Calendar of Observances iPhone app developed by online volunteers

Screenshot of the UN Calender of Observances app. (2012)Screenshot of the UN Calender of Observances app. (2012)Andrew Thornton, UN Online Volunteer. (2012)Andrew Thornton, UN Online Volunteer. (2012)Aveline Sodji, UN Online Volunteer. (2012)Aveline Sodji, UN Online Volunteer. (2012)
05 December 2012

New York, USA: Working with the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI), a team of three UN Online Volunteers turned the print version of the United Nations 2013 calendar into an iPhone application. The UN Calender of Observances  app is also the product of collaboration within DPI itself, including staff and interns. This personal task management tool aims to foster interest in and support for the work of the United Nations, and can be downloaded for free from the iTunes Store.

With their strong background in software development (Christopher Bell, New Zealand), information technology management  (Aveline Sodji, Canada) and software engineering (Andrew Thornton, U.K.), “the volunteers brought professional expertise and experience that we did not have”, says Finn Summerell, Chief of the Yearbook Unit of the DPI Publications and Editorial Cluster.

In response to the overall project objectives and development timeline established by the DPI team that managed the project, the online volunteers drafted a detailed requirements document, including a project description, a list of critical features and potential functions, as well as wireframes visually outlining the application interface. “Their thoughtful input was key to defining the form of the app, including its functionality and appearance. The volunteers  flagged issues to be addressed, as well as outlined aspects for future development -- and regularly offered solutions to be considered”, according to Mr. Summerell.

Based on DPI’s feedback, the team revised the requirements document and, upon DPI approval, set out to create the application software. Driven by their passion for mobile applications and the work of the UN, their hard work and dedication made it possible for the United Nations to have a new public information tool at its disposal, expanding the range of mobile applications through which the United Nations can reach out to a new audience.

The app, which can be fully integrated into the native iPhone calendar,  features United Nations observances, which promote awareness of and action on important political, social, cultural, humanitarian or human rights issues, as well as ways to get involved in related events and links to further information. It provides interactive components about UN achievements, links to related videos and photos and options for sharing information via social media.

Andrew Thornton (U.K.), whose responsibilities included the coordination of the online volunteers team, estimates that he spent around 150 hours on the project.  For Andrew, who has 13 years of professional experience in building software systems and who works with UN Women, the project was an opportunity to keep up with the latest developments in his field:  “I feel that I really understand what it takes to develop iPhone and iPad applications now, which is delightful and potentially something that will help in the future.”

Similarly, Christopher Bell (New Zealand) values the fact that through this assignment, he learned new technical skills that he can apply to his current and future roles. Christopher has a Bachelor of Information Technology and five years of experience in software development.  Currently working for Transparency International in the Republic of Georgia, he says: “I've always had a great interest in the UN and the work it does and I am passionate about the use of technology in development and NGO work.”

Aveline Sodji (Canada) took on the wireframes of the app in the early stage and the development of the monthly view.  Having worked as programmer for a few years, she now specializes on mobile applications project management. “I'm passionate about mobile development and the real benefits that a properly thought-through mobile solution can bring to people.”
UNV is administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)