The key elements of a mission-critical digital service

Supporting people in a crisis situation is one of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) key responsibilities. Civica recently delivered an upgraded digital service, Crisis Hub, to support FCO’s work. Building on a prototype system, Civica’s challenge was to transform it into a technically robust, rapidly scalable and totally dependable solution.

FCO knew they needed a multichannel system that was secure and available remotely. The system would be a mission-critical digital service and two elements were top of the requirements: officials needed to be able to enter data offline and work fast.

Enabling people to work offline
It was vital to FCO that its field-based personnel had the ability to work offline. After all, in dangerous situations internet connectivity is hard to come by, whether due to censorship, sabotage or plain old limited infrastructure. The team needed to rely on the data being safe if it was intercepted and retrievable when they were able to work online again.

Civica provided an innovative solution: the user’s browser takes a partial snapshot of the submitted data. This is encrypted so that if a device is lost or stolen it can only be retrieved by those with a password. As soon as a connection is re-established, data is decrypted and synchronised with the central hub.

Saving precious time
A crisis can come in many forms but one thing stays the same: timing and speed of response is everything. The way Crisis Hub was developed reflects three key time-saving initiatives. Crisis Hub was designed to be intuitive. New users don’t require a manual or detailed training. They simply need a login to be up and running, ideal in a hurry. Civica refined the system’s triaging capacity so it could automatically rank affected parties (APs) by priority. It also prioritises APs against criteria such as disability, pregnancy, an injury and its severity, and any critical medication requirements – meaning that FCO personnel are able to use their time far more efficiently.

Sophisticated software to analyse duplicates (or similar) data was implemented. This is important for identifying when the same Affected Person is being listed more than once by worried friends and family. It also provides a ‘certainty value’ so users can make an informed judgement and avoid chasing down multiple leads.

Proven under fire
Crisis Hub now supports over 2,000 users from FCO and its partner organisations. It has already demonstrated its worth in crisis situations around the world, including the airport security crisis in Sharm el Sheikh, the Nepalese earthquake and the Tunisian terrorist attacks.