In response to the Kosovo crisis in spring 1999, Microsoft and its corporate partners (Compaq, Hewlett–Packard, Canon, Kingston Technology, Securit World Ltd. and ScreenCheck B.V.) worked with UNHCR to design and deploy a refugee registration system.
Registering refugees and providing identification cards became a priority because the majority of refugees had been stripped of all identification documents. Thirty–five Microsoft volunteers from nine countries supported this effort. UNHCR was impressed by the dedication of Microsoft employees working in the field under difficult and rapidly–changing conditions.
One hundred registration kits were produced, each containing a laptop computer, digital camera, identification card printer and other accessories. Using the system, refugees were registered and their biographical details entered into a database. Identification cards with a photograph and signature were issued. The database was employed in the distribution of aid and proved useful in searching for and reuniting separated families. For their joint efforts, Microsoft and UNHCR have been nominated for a Computerworld Smithsonian Award.
Microsoft and UNHCR have further developed this technology, resulting in the Refugee Field Kit 2000. The new kit has been employed in registration exercises in Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Zambia, Nigeria, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Kenya, Egypt and India.