GuideStar International's Blog

September 14, 2012

Global Cloud Computing Survey on NGOs – 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — guidestarinternational @ 13:41
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In 2012, TechSoup Global and its network of partners conducted a survey of NGOs, nonprofits, and charities around the world. The goal was to better understand the current state of their tech infrastructure and their future plans for adopting cloud technologies.

TechSoup Global received answers from more than 10,500 respondents in 88 countries and this data adds to its ever-evolving resources for NGOs, foundations, and the nonprofit community. This extensive study, the first of its kind has also been translated into 18 languages. Its compulsory reading for anyone wanting to understand the needs of NGOs around the work in relation to tech and cloud computing. Click here to read it.

March 23, 2012

Tell Us About Your Technology

Filed under: Uncategorized — guidestarinternational @ 12:20
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ImageTechSoup Global wants to learn more about how your organisation uses traditional and cloud-based technology and about your plans for the future.

Be heard! This is your chance to tell us what you need.  Take our survey – it’s short, only 10 minutes, and intended for anyone who has responsibility for recommending, purchasing or managing IT products or services at an NGO including nonprofits, charities, libraries, foundations or similar organizations. All ranges of IT influencers are invited — from accidental techies to IT directors.

By better understanding the tools you currently use and your future plans, we can work with our partners around the world to provide nonprofits like yours the technology resources they need to operate at their full potential.

The survey closes March 23 so please don’t miss out on your chance to tell us about your IT needs.

What are we doing with the results?

In late spring, we’ll publish a white paper with the survey results detailing the responses of nonprofits based in the United States and in 37 countries around the world. The results will support organisations like yours in making informed IT decisions. They will provide insights into how your peers are using technology and into the currents needs and issues around adopting cloud technologies.

If you’re interested in receiving a report on the survey findings, be sure to provide your email address at the end of the survey. We’ll send you the white paper when it’s finished in late spring and it’ll be available for free on our site.

March 8, 2011

How Safe is the Cloud?

Filed under: civil society,CSO reporting,ICT for Development,Uncategorized — guidestarinternational @ 10:18
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This is the last of a three part series about Cloud computing as it relates to civil society organisations (CSOs) by Keisha Taylor, Communications Manager, GuideStar International.  You can also read the first post TechSoup Global: Teaching CSOs About the Cloud and the second post What is the Value of the Cloud for CSOs in the Developing World?.

Information held by and about a CSO in the Cloud can be requested by governments for a variety of reasons and this can be done without the CSO’s knowledge. As one TechCrunch blogger Paul Carr noted on his post Why I’m Having Second Thoughts About The Wisdom Of The Cloud, a request for information letter can be sent by the government to a provider without any requirement to notify the organisation or person that their data is being accessed. Such stories only serve to heighten CSOs concern about privacy and make them more wary of the use of the Cloud, particularly if they take a position that is publicly in opposition to a government that has jurisdiction over the information they hold in a Cloud.

It isn’t only governments and businesses that are concerned about security, for CSOs also want information about their development related activities and those they serve to be safe in the cloud. A common argument among cloud service providers is that putting data into the Cloud is far safer than keeping it on your computer, disc or server.  However, there is still not enough overarching standardisation and regulation to help ensure the security needed is in place within this emerging market.  In a data driven and data dependent world if the information that an organisation depends on for its work is lost and irretrievable they have little recourse. Such fears have lead to services like Backupify being introduced to back up information from social networking sites and Google apps.

A Computer World article by Bernard Golden lists a number of predictions for Cloud Computing in 2011, speculating that its use will continue and expand to more countries and as 3G mobile phone services become increasing available in the developing world this will most likely be true. The Cloud presents unprecedented opportunities for civil society organizations to be more efficient in their work. However I would also argue that while CSO will undoubtedly increasingly using cloud computing services, if answers to questions like: What happens if I lose my data in the cloud? What are the local and international regulations governing the Cloud? and How can I transfer all of my information from one Cloud to the next are hard to come by, some CSOs may yet cling to the wise old adage that says you should ‘never place all your eggs in one basket’.

March 1, 2011

What is the Value of the Cloud for CSOs in the Developing World?

Filed under: Access to information,CSO reporting — guidestarinternational @ 15:56
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This is the second of a three part series about Cloud computing as it relates to civil society organisations (CSOs) by Keisha Taylor, Communications Manager, GuideStar International.  You can also read the first post  TechSoup Global: Teaching CSOs About the Cloud

There has been a lot of talk lately about the benefits of Cloud computing to the nonprofit sector, but many CSOs in the developing world are unaware of how important this technology is quickly becoming.  This is in part because developing countries face additional constraints which limit its adoption, though the benefits that can be derived from its use are somewhat unparalleled.  CSOs in developing countries may arguably not be as worried about security and privacy, (though this too is by no means of little importance!) because infrastructure problems like lack of a reliable electricity supply, limited internet access and slow broadband are issues they must still overcome if they want to adopt many ICT services and truly take advantage of services like the Cloud.

On the other hand it is worth emphasising that NGOs and the many community based organisations, small businesses, educators and researchers they support can realise massive cost saving on software and ICT support, which can translate into developing countries having the competitive edge needed for a community region or country to emerge from poverty.

The Cloud is channelling the creativity of developers in the developing world despite the absence of sufficient infrastructure.  Wilfred Mworia, a young engineering student created an application for the iPhone that shows where events in Nairobi, Kenya are happening while also allowing others to add further information about them even though he did not possess an iPhone, which was also not available in Nairobi. He used the iPhone simulator… hosted far away … in the ‘Internet Cloud’ to develop the app. Decreased costs derived from the use of the Cloud provides tremendous potential for the nonprofit community in collaboration with well intentioned technologists and philanthropists in the developing world to develop apps that can be utilised to help with their work.

Moreover, research and education are two areas that are of vital importance to many NGOs located in the developing world, and the Cloud provides an opportunity for NGOs and the research and education centres they support to access the same information that those in developed world possess. It also provides an opportunity for increased collaboration and sharing of information. For example Elastic-R, is a Software platform that provides a collaborative virtual research environment in the Cloud. It enables African scientists to utilise digital vouchers subsidised by civil society organisations to pay per use.

As low cost smartphones and netbooks are increasingly made available in the developing world this also provides increased opportunity for CSOs operating there. Though many developing countries still struggle with lack of high speed broadband and related infrastructure problems, Cloud Computing has the potential to help them utilise the Cloud via their mobile phone to get services they need cheaply, easily and in some cases free. Cloudphone is one service that allows those who can’t afford the mobile handset to still have a mobile number and assess the information from any phone through the Cloud. As more Cloud based applications tailored to the constraints of the developing world are made available not only to individuals, SMEs and governments but also to CSOs, they will increasingly depend on such technology to carry out their work efficiently and cost effectively.

The Cloud is even being utilised for mapping crises. Ushahadi, is one nonprofit technology company that developed a free cloud based platform called Crowdmap. Crowdmap helps to crowdsource information needed to aid disaster and emergency response efforts.  It was used to aid relief efforts following the Haitian earthquake and the platform has been recognised as useful beyond the nonprofit sector.

If cloud computing is seen as vital for the growth of a developing economy more resources may be allocated to ICT infrastructure.  Michael Nelson argues in The Cloud, the Crowd, and Public Policy that the Cloud may force governments to provide subsidies or reform their policies in a way which promotes the use of broadband and helps to bridge the digital divide.  This will  serve to increase not only the use of the Cloud, but also the use of other related ICT products and services and help to engender greater creativity, another ingredient vital for development.

As problems related to lack of reliable broadband and an inadequate power supply are more quickly and hopefully surely overcome in developing countries, the Cloud can level the playing field and facilitate maximum efficiency for many local CSOs as well as some of the small businesses and public services they support.

February 8, 2011

TechSoup Global: Teaching CSOs About the Cloud

Filed under: civil society,Data visualisation — guidestarinternational @ 09:44
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This is the first of a three part series about Cloud computing as it relates to civil society organisations (CSOs) by Keisha Taylor, Communications Manager, GuideStar International

Civil Society Organisations are waking up to the benefits of using cloud computing services (the Cloud) for their work. Nevertheless, issues like interoperability, security, privacy and lack of a supportive technology infrastructure persist, leading many CSOs unable to decide if it is right for them.

TechSoup Global is educating CSOs about the value of Cloud computing as well as the problems they may encounter as more and more cloud computing services are introduced to the sector. The TechSoup website and blog contain a lot of useful information about cloud services available to nonprofits and their forum facilitates useful discussion among civil society organisations such as Cloud Computing: Is It More Secure? and Is Cloud Computing Greener?.  Cloud computing services are available from some of the many partners that TechSoup Global works with in countries throughout the world.

Have a look at some blog posts on the issue from the TechSoup blog below.

Jim Lynch, Co-Director of the GreenTech and Electronics Recycling & Reuse Programs at TechSoup says “TechSoup Global is working hard to find out what is and isn’t useful for CSOs as the Cloud descends upon all of us. It’s pretty clear that cloud computing is a major transformation in the way that people will use IT as the use of mobile phones, computers, and Internet converge. To quote Nicholas Carr in his book The Big Switch“What happened to the generation of power a century ago is now happening to the processing of information. Private computer systems, built and operated by individual companies, are being supplanted by services provided over a common grid—the Internet—by centralized data-processing plants. Computing is turning into a utility, and once again the economic equations that determine the way we work and live are being rewritten.”

For those who want to get a more in depth and overarching view of the technical, security, legal, economic, development and environment issues involved in the use of the Cloud, read transcripts from some Cloud computing sessions held at the last Internet Governance Forum. At the Forum, Cloud providers, CSOs, governments, corporations, cloud evangelists and skeptics from around the world gathered to discuss and try to resolve some of the issues involved, in an attempt to ensure sure that cloud computing services develop in an environmentally friendly, secure and interoperable way.

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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