NGOs face a number of challenges related to technology.
First and foremost, many of the countries where international NGOs operate lack reliable, affordable broadband internet connectivity, rendering many technologies infeasible.
Second, technology purchases are often made with specific grants or project-restricted funds, which makes strategic planning difficult. Decentralized organizational structures can make standardization even more difficult.
Finally, while there are some NGOs that embrace cutting-edge technology, most have an “institutional” orientation, and tend to use outmoded technologies (e.g., still using email for internal communication vs. a threaded discussion platform like Slack).
However, NGOs that find creative ways to leverage appropriate technologies within a well-considered framework can greatly increase the productivity of their staff and, in turn, their mission impact. A few specific recommendations include:
- Enlist the IT function as a strategic partner, finding ways that technology can advance the organization’s mission, as opposed to a maintenance organization. Actively research the needs of project teams and observe the work habits of users at every level of the organization, from global headquarters to local offices, to get a sense of their preferences and needs
- Establish clear policies regarding which apps teams should use for which purposes (e.g., “All surveys should be done via Survey Monkey” or similar). Set up enterprise accounts for web apps to save money and facilitate sharing of information. Also, develop a clear process for consideration of new technologies
- Create on-demand resources with quick links to support articles on software publishers’ websites, particularly helpful YouTube tutorials and – for processes that are specific to your organization – screen captured tutorials (we recommend giving every team member a copy of Open Broadcast Software to help them record screen capture videos and Gyzao for sharing static screen shots)