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Creating a live tracking event app for the 60th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs

Digital Innovation



A digital need

The Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) was established in 1946 to assist the ECOSOC in supervising the application of the international drug control treaties. The CND meets annually in Vienna, Austria to consider and adopt a range of decisions and resolutions for the coming year and provide policy guidance to the UNODC.

Each day of the event consists of Plenary session discussions running alongside separate resolution negotiations while more than 100 side events are held throughout the week. The International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), who are charged with organising the event, wanted a way to manage the extensive amount of resources and content produced, and help attendees find their way through the constantly developing event schedule.


The project allowed for a six-week schedule spanning conception right through to deployment alongside a budget that required maximum efficiency. With these important constraints of the project understood, we set out the plan for a mobile-focused web app that would enable us to move quickly and create a fully-featured, flexible digital product.

We worked with IDPC to create a product spec that detailed everything we knew about the content and functionality requirements. This then served as our brief for plotting out initial wireframes and a development plan.

Clarity and ease-of-use were key drivers in the formation of the app's visual design.


Due to the tight timeframe, we had to select and test technology rapidly. In addition to this, IDPC needed to have full control over the content during the course of the event and had a history of experience with WordPress as a CMS, so it became the natural choice for development of the product. We also integrated a real-time notification system, which allowed our client to instantly send updates to their users on the fly. For this we leveraged running on the Heroku platform.


Building the app using web technology meant that we weren’t able to reliably make use of push notifications to devices. With this in mind we needed to create a rich experience for users while interacting with the app, and one that would save notifications for them when they were away. We set about creating a ‘live now’ featured content bar that would give attendees a constant view on a session’s progress.

We further enhanced the rich, interactive experience of the product by enabling users to add segments, resolutions, and side events to their own schedule area. This gave them a quick way to create an agenda for the day that would then trigger on-screen alerts notifying them that a session or event was about to begin.

‘Many people told us at the CND that the app was incredibly helpful . . . thanks so so so much to all of you for your constant work and updates!’


The app was widely used by attendees throughout the event and was a great step towards making the whole experience cohesive and easy to navigate. It helped IDPC keep all event resources and documents up to date and served as an invaluable reference tool for attendees – built within both time scope and budget.

During the course of the event, the app supported a large range of visitors:

  • 510 unique users
  • 3,675 page impressions
  • 1,863 user sessions
  • An average time on site of ~5 minutes
  • 255 real-time notifications

Our vision for a product that could sustainably grow from year to year is also materialising. With a solid and flexible foundation in place, IDPC and GIZ now have a firm footing from which to expand production, taking on learning from this year and effectively expanding the app for next year’s event and beyond.

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