GuideStar International's Blog

January 11, 2010

2010: A Year of Online Clouds, Crowds, and Data Visualizations for CSOs?

By Keisha Taylor

We enter 2010 with plans for cloud computing, crowdsourcing as well as mapping and visualisation of data included in the agendas of governments and businesses. CSOs will do well to consider such options as they seek to maximise the impact of their work. Though such applications must be transparent, safe and respect the privacy of users, the potential benefits to those who proactively engage with it can be significant. Have a look at this interesting list of predictions for ICT trends this year.

Recession proof budgets have caused governments and large, small and medium businesses to realise that cloud computing can be a cost effective way for them to provide services to the public. See US and the UK government examples. TechSoup also lists the benefits of cloud technology to nonprofits.

CrowdsourcingRenewed calls for accountability may lead crowdsourcing to become increasingly used to gauge public opinion, solve problems and get feedback, which can inform and direct policies. One example is Vote India’s use of crowdsourcing to monitor the election process in India. However, it is also being used for the questionable Internet Eyes (to be launched in the UK this year), which invites the public to log onto their website to view CCTV footage and search for and report on crimes witnessed. It has even been used to recruit internet volunteers to search for a missing aviator. These are just three of many ways in which it has been used this year and such usage will no doubt increase in 2010.

The mapping and visualisation of data gathered and the use of real time content, may gather momentum this year and help enhance understanding of our world and the way in which individuals and organisations relate to each other within and across borders. It will also aid response to the call for greater transparency as data, which was unknown, inaccessible or muddled comes to light. The Where Does My Money Go prototype developed for the UK government by the Open Knowledge Foundation to reveal budget expenditure is one example of this, while the IT Dashboard provides the public with mapped data on US government spending.

2Paths gave an interesting presentation entitled Show me the Data at the Turning Statistics into Knowledge conference jointly organized by the US Census Bureau, the OECD and the World Bank, which stressed the need to be able to access and link data from multiple international agencies and foundations to answer questions like “Is aid tied to malaria activities making a difference?” As data becomes more readily available, we hope that more will be done with existing data to help us all visually understand what is really needed to realise socioeconomic development.  Philanthropy 2173 also has an interesting take on the ways in which philanthropy can and may use data and ICT this year in their Decoding the Future posts.

As GuideStar International seeks to illuminate the work of the world’s CSOs online we will also be keeping watch on ICT developments to ensure that the CSOs listed on the site can use modern, relevant technology to publicise their work effectively to all stakeholders on GuideStar.  As with all other issues CSOs will no doubt rise to the challenge of ensuring that civil liberties are protected for users of such technology. We hope that GuideStar will be one of the platforms that they use to showcase that work too.

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