Okta and Gavi: Bringing Immunization to Far Corners of the World

When you hear about pledges to increase immunization in countries like Haiti, where 69 out of every 1,000 children die before their fifth birthday, Gavi—the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization—is probably behind it.

The organization, started in 2000 with the help of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, brings together key UN agencies, governments, the vaccine industry, the private sector, and civil organizations with a shared goal of creating equal access to vaccines for children living in the world’s poorest countries.

Here at Okta, we contribute to the Gavi cause through the Okta for Good program, which supports nonprofits through free product licensing and preferential pricing. We spoke to David Nix, chief knowledge officer at Gavi, to learn about his role in the organization’s aggressive goal to immunize another 300 million children by 2020.

What were some of the IT challenges you faced when you started at Gavi? I started working at Gavi about three years ago. When I arrived, it had a very traditional IT infrastructure, focused on core technologies. It lacked some of the services that have evolved over the last four years. We took the last three years to update from a traditional architecture to a cloud-based, fast-moving, agile solution that pulls together best-of-breed cloud solutions to deliver services to Gavi.

Gavi, the secretariat, is about 300 staff. However, the power of Gavi is convening our partnership with manufacturers, the WHO, UNICEF, to bring to bear thousands of people to deliver on the mission of saving kids' lives.

Our strategy at Gavi has been to look at who our stakeholders are—whether it's our countries, our board members, our secretariat staff—and engage them in this digital knowledge transformation that we're going through. Our first step was to put a platform in place that allowed us to interact with those stakeholders digitally. It quickly turned into, how do we provide access to different services and knowledge sets? To enable that access seamlessly, with a great user experience, identity management was key.

Why did you settle on Okta as your identity partner? We looked at a few different partners, but I was pretty adamant that I wanted Okta people on our project. It was a really good decision. The people that Okta put on our implementation were great thinkers. They knew the product. They knew how to help us solve the problems, but realistically, they were also really interested in what Gavi was doing, and trying to help Gavi move our mission forward. It wasn't just about implementing the technology, it really was about saving kids' lives. They could see that. That's a connection you don't always get when you bring in professional services.

Tell us about your Okta implementation. Okta made it simple. We implemented 14 applications in the span of six weeks. Within two weeks of deployment, we had 90% of the secretariat staff using the solution. After that, we implemented the solution for over 1,500 external stakeholders worldwide. We have users across all our countries across the world using Okta to gain access to the online and digital services that Gavi provides.

The first application we rolled out was the country portal—a digital mechanism for all our countries to gain access to Gavi resources. Today, Okta enables 73 countries and over 1,000 users to access vaccines and health system-strengthening-dollars, to save kids' lives.

The second application we rolled out was focused on how we bring together this unique alliance that Gavi is coordinating. Bringing together our manufacturers and all our partners, the WHO and UNICEF, through this online partner portal—that’s a great step in terms of being better and more efficient at how we deliver services to countries. Today, we use Okta to authenticate and track all the people who have access.

How has Okta helped you in your knowledge management role at Gavi? One of the key capabilities that comes with Okta is the ability to master identities from various sources. It's been such a huge problem for Gavi. You have these different applications and identities, all coming from different sources. How do you keep those in sync? It has such a visible impact to users when they don't see the right information when they've logged in.

We use Okta to master identities and keep that data in sync across multiple applications: Salesforce, FairSail, our HR application, as well as Office 365, our financial applications, and other downstream applications. As a result, we have higher-quality data about our people in all the right places—which is the key to knowledge management: Knowing who people are.

How do you see your partnership with Okta evolving in the next few years? I think the key for us as we continue to roll out Okta and make use of it as a platform, is to think about how we ensure security and seamless access to resources. The industry is going toward a place where the device is mobile and it may not even be your device that you own any longer, but one that staff brings. The mobile device functionality that comes with Okta is key for us, in terms of really continuing to press security out into our ecosystem.

For Gavi, one of the biggest opportunities is supply chain management. As we get better at that, we become more efficient with how we manage vaccine in-country. If we can connect that supply chain and the cold chain equipment into our applications, and know what devices are connected and what users are using those devices, the amount of data and knowledge we can capture and share back to save more kids’ lives faster is astounding.

To learn more about the role that Okta plays in knowledge management at Gavi, read the customer journey or watch the video: