“There is something you can’t explain,” he says over the phone from Baghdad. “In Montreal, I had an interesting job, but it felt that I was generating revenue for someone else. With this one, it feels like I am making a difference.”
Feeding and empowering the people
Alhammami’s official WFP title in Iraq is head of digital advisory services. He is also in charge of the organization’s local information technology division. With a staff of 14, his responsibilities are manifold.
One involves working out the kinks and managing the digitalization of the national public distribution system (PDS) for food rations. He then teaches employees in the country’s trade ministry how to run the program once the WFP moves on.
Another entails working on the ground with about 100,000 Iraqis in the program’s pilot project, teaching them to use an app to register and update their information — a new baby, for example, or the death of a grandparent.
The office also dispenses credits for people to buy their food at a designated grocery store or, in cases where visits to the store are not possible, delivers food hampers. During the height of the pandemic, this was often the only solution.
In July 2021, the program is to expand to encompass an Iraqi province with 1.6 million residents.
“The reason we came up with this mobile app is that we found 95 per cent of Iraqis own at least one smartphone, and if there is an elderly person who is less technologically savvy, someone else can help them,” Alhammami says. “Before, people had to visit service centres, waiting for hours in lineups to update their information, which often got lost.
“It empowers all people to update at their convenience, no matter their situation.”