Interoperability in Primero with OpenFn is changing the way we work!

In 2019, the UNICEF Cambodia supported the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and youth Rehabilitation (MoSVY) to facilitate government partners and local non-governmental organizations in systematic registration and tracking of children in Cambodia, including facilitating duplicate detection between systems and enabling easy-to-use processes on updating beneficiary details. After review of available options, the OpenFn integration platform (iPaaS) was chosen to provide organizations with a flexible, stable, secure and cost-effective data integration and systems automation solution. After a period of 1 year, OpenFn was configured and provided a secure infrastructure on which stakeholders can quickly implement automated data flows between Primero and OSCaR, the local non-governmental organizational system used for case management. With the ease of deployment, cost-efficiencies, and nature of the open-source which can be hosted by UNICEF, OpenFn is now beginning the ground-breaking work of achieving interoperability with ProGres v2, UNHCR’s institutional tool, as well as enabling Primero- to- Primero implementations in the field. As OpenFn already provides full interoperability with DHIS2, KoboToolbox, CommCare, and hundreds of other leading ICT4D and government technologies and database systems, Primero expects its work with OpenFn to significantly reduce implementation costs and lead to greater adoption across its government partners. If you are interested in interoperability, review the integration checklist.


Open Function Group (OFG) specializes in integrated system design and implementation for international development programs and has developed the OpenFn integration platform (iPaaS) to provide organizations with fleixble, stable and secure data integration and systems automation. Are you interested in interoperability? Read more at or view the OpenFn-UNICEF Introduction.


What is Interoperability?

This is the ability of data systems - like Primero - to exchange information with other systems. For Primero, this may be between modules and/or with other partner systems. Data exchanges may be achieved manually through the exchange of files, or automated using software.

What is the rationale and purpose for interoperability? What is the problem we are trying to solve?

No single actor or organization can deliver all the services required to protect and respond to the needs of vulnerable children and survivors of violence. Sharing data confidentially, when done properly, is an essential part of good programming. Safeguarding the collection and storage of beneficiary information is critical. Managing sensitive data demands clear protocols for data sharing, including with whom that data will be shared and how it will be used. Information management systems that facilitate services and referral between actors and systems require information sharing protocols (ISP). If these do not exist, they must be developed. Interoperability can be designed to align with ISPs and to optimize security, efficiency, confidentiality, and accountability. For example, interoperability software can use automatic triggers which ensure that a predefined dataset is only shared i) with a child’s consent, ii) with a certain group or subgroup of users and iii) for a specific purpose. This is the need-to-know principle being implemented in a whole new way which promises better coordination, less duplication, better response times, full auditability, and better outcomes for children and survivors or violence.

Why do you we want to share information between modules or with external systems?

Ultimately, the goal should be to support children and vulnerable populations and to improve the quality, security, accountability, accuracy and timeliness of programmes including case management and response services. In addition to these advantages, efficient data sharing can improve the experience of field staff using the different systems who are trying to coordinate work. It can save time and prevent duplicative processes, and make programmes function more smoothly. It may also prevent re-victimization, as children and survivors of violence should not be required to repeatedly share details of their experiences with multiple service providers in order to receive support.


The rationale behind the discussion on interoperability is to come to a common understanding and agreement of its objective and requirements for each module to adequately inform Primero implementations.

The Case Management Task Force and the CPIMS Steering Committee has worked towards a minimum dataset and set of case management forms for use in humanitarian settings. This minimum data set has informed the standard instance in CPIMS+. Fields that are present on the inter-agency referral form can be shared between CPIMS+ and external systems such as proGres v4 (in line with the agreed ISP). This is not automatic and requires defining information sharing protocols and reinforcing good practice, need to know principles, do not harm principles and accountability.

The GBVIMS Steering Committee is looking at interoperability between modules, specifically CPIMS+, but has not committed to the interoperability with systems outside of Primero.

What data can be shared for GBVIMS+ & CPIMS+?

The CPIMS Steering Committee, GBVIMS Steering Committee and Primero Coordination have agreed that data will only be shared for referrals. This means the only data points that are shared will be those which are part of the inter-agency referral form. A case referral is only shared after a child has provided informed consent.

Is data sharing automatic?

No, before a referral can be shared, an Information Sharing Protocol must be in place agreed-to by all participating agencies. A case referral can only be shared between CPIMS+ and GBVIMS+ after a child has provided consent.

Is interoperability available in Primero?

Development is underway in Primero v2 to first enhance the GBVIMS+ and will be completed by December 2020. This includes:

  • Improved dashboards for viewing the status of a referral (approved, pending, accepted, rejected),
  • Alerting for the case worker/referral focal point
  • Enhanced user interface for referring within the system

Thereafter, thorough testing will be underway and this functionality will be available to use in Q1 2021.

What about Interoperability between Primero and ProGres v4?

The Primero Coordination Committee (PCC), composed of child protection and gender-based violence specialists from UNICEF, UNHCR, UNFPA, IRC, Save the Children, Plan International and Terre des hommes Lausanne. The PCC is a forum for inter-agency collaboration, coordination and consensus building to promote the effective and responsible use of the Primero platform.

The CPIMS+ Steering Committee is the key strategic governance body responsible for the business issues and coordination associated with CPIMS+. It oversees all that is essential for the commitment to the rollout of the CPIMS+, appropriate use, management and sustainability of the system. Members include UNICEF, IRC, Save the Children, Terre des hommes Lausanne, UNHCR, CP AoR, and Plan International.

Both the Primero Coordination Committee and CPIMS+ Steering Committee have committed to improving the experience of field staff who are using Primero and proGres v4 and trying to coordinate work to support children/vulnerable populations safely and securely and ultimately improve services, responses, and child protection case management for children. The illustration provides an ecosystem of UNHCR PRIMES, and the commitment to interoperability with Primero as a partner tool. Read more: Modernizing Registration and Identity Management in UNHCR: Introducing PRIMES.

After a series of consultations with partners, the first agreed use-case for data sharing between the two systems is case referrals for the purpose of service provision. A case referral is made and related data is only shared after a child has provided informed consent. The information shared is on a need-to-know basis and consists of a set of predefined data points that are agreed to be necessary to complete the case referral. Before information can be shared, an Information Sharing Protocol must be in place agreed-to by all participating agencies. Primero and proGres v4 also have an audit log functionality which generates a report indicating who has made the referral for transparency purposes.

The Case Management Task Force and the CPIMS Steering Committee has worked towards a minimum dataset and set of case management forms for use in humanitarian settings. The CMTF and the CPIMS+ Steering Committee have worked together to incorporate case management processes and forms into the structure of the CPIMS+. This minimum data set has informed the standard instance in Primero’s v2 CPIMS+ module. Fields that are present on the inter-agency referral form can be shared between CPIMS+ and proGres v4 (in line with the agreed ISP). This is not automatic and requires defining information sharing protocols and reinforcing good practice, need to know principles, do not harm principles and accountability.

Interoperability between Primero v1 and ProGres v4

Primero v1 functionality in CPIMS+ exists where a UNHCR export (CSV) can be produced manually by a specific role permission. This functionality can be turned on and off by the development vendor as defined by the implementation plan/specifications defined by the project team. This export is consent-driven by beneficiaries and is encrypted and requires a password to view the records. This export can be manually uploaded into proGres. The exported records will only show if the child has provided consent and the consent is recorded in the CPIMS+ case file. CPIMS+ and proGres are interoperable in Kenya and Jordan (via RAIS) based on programme level ISPs.

Interoperability between Primero v2 and ProGres v4

Partners agreed as a first step to begin with interoperable case referral functionality in Primero v2. This functionality would allow for referrals to be transferred between CPIMS+ and proGres v4 (both directions), without the need to upload or download CSV files.

The PCC worked together to define technical specifications for referrals which can be found here. Information that is shared will be determined by the need to know of the receiving agency and requires consent of the child.

Development in ProGres v4

UNHCR is in the finalization of technical enhancements to proGres version 4. There will be a phase approach to the development of interoperability which is necessary for budgeting and planning. The development will be within the defined user stories outlined by the PCC. Phase 1 of the development is focused on 3 aspects of interoperability:

  • Building the Bridge between Primero (OpenFn) and proGres (Data Transfer Platform)
  • Enabling systems to talk to each other for case validation (i.e. is this the right person)
  • Referral functionality

Way forward

The Primero team (UNICEF) has been working with the proGres v4 team (UNHCR) to discuss technical requirements and develop a workplan on interoperability and has proposed several countries as the first country for this proof of concept. ANy additional use cases and data points for interoperability raised from field consultations will be address in the Primero Coordination Committee monthly meetings, and will be adapted accordingly to partner needs once approved.

Proposed Countries

The criteria which has been used to identify proposed countries include:

  • Country willingness
  • Information Sharing Protocol (ISP) to be in place or in development
  • Coordination structures in place required to support and maintain interoperability
  • ICT considerations
  • Willingness to upgrade to Primero v2

The countries that have already expressed interest for interoperability include: Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Iraq.

Main contacts

Jan Panchalingam, Primero Deployment Lead at UNICEF
Kate McCallister, GBV Information Management Specialist at UNHCR
Jessica Stuart-Clark, Information Management Officer at UNHCR


Read more from our partners on interoperability!

Programmatic guidance on implementing IO proGres v4 on and you can find technical requirements at UNICEF <> UNHCR Interagency Interoperability: Gambella Pilot | primero-progres

Cambodian Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation (in Cambodian and English):

OpenFn: Enabling Interoperability for Child Case Referrals in Cambodia | OpenFn/docs

Interoperability with ONA

UNICEF Cambodia is currently using an ONA-based Canopy-based dashboard to visualize integrated child protection-related indicators. In order to link specific indicators from the dashboard with aggregated data from Primero, we have implemented interoperability between Primero and the ONA dashboard.

In 2020, UNICEF had utilized the OpenFn integration platform to automate data exchange between Primero and OSCaR, an in-country case management tool used by non-profit case workers and managers. OpenFn is now being extended in this integration to add another automated data pipeline to connect Primero and the ONA dashboard. Read more here.

Are you interested in IO with ONA?

  • This could easily be re-implemented for any Primero implementation so long as the requirements for which data point(s) need to be extracted for each indicator are clear
  • Indicator data could be pulled from 1 system (i.e., one Primero instance) or multiple source systems (i.e., multiple Primero instances and/or other partner systems)
  • This data can be synced with any kind of database. For Cambodia, we sync with Postgres, which has connectors not only for the ONA team’s Canopy-dashboards, but could also be connected with almost ANY data analysis tool (incl. Tableau, PowerBI, many open-source options)
1 Like