ICT – Think Tank
Wednesday, 13th July 2005 at 1:07 pm
The fourth Pro Bono Australia Thin Tank topic called “ICT- Are you driving the technology or is it driving you?” delivers some strong opinions about embracing technology and its effective use in the Not for Profit sector.
And the majority of our Thinkers say that updating web sites (80%) and databases (75%) are the key ingredients to keeping up with the technology evolution. Email marketing and e-commerce functions followed close behind!
By way of background the most recent ABS statistics show there are 5.2 million Internet subscribers in Australia. Some 4.48 million are households and 740,000 are businesses and government subscribers.
Consumers are using the Internet for a wide range of activities. The most common usage is electronic mail (84%), searching for information on products (55%), general web browsing (54%) and checking account balances (48%).
How are Not for Profits using it? Think Tank participants were asked how the community sector can better use ICT to improve an organisation’s effectiveness.
More than half of the recipients (56%) believe that the Not for Profit sector is lagging behind in the effective use of information and communication technology.
And as many as 73% believe the reason they are missing out is because of limited resources.
Almost one third of organisations surveyed do not have full time internal IT support while 12% used full time paid consultants. The remaining participants used part time IT volunteers (12%), and part time paid consultants (12%). The remained used a combination of volunteers and paid consultants.
But their concerns about ICT were fairly even across a number of issues from not having in-house technical expertise, a lack of expertise about new technology developments, and the cost of upgrading new technology.
The survey offered some strong views on embracing ICT. Here are some comments.
Being more up to date, being relevant, and being able to respond immediately to any situation is vital. Having a website that is continually out of date is detrimental. I’m sure there are many things we do not know about and have not even explored that would save a lot of staff time. Also we need to stay relevant to younger people and talk to them in a way that they understand.
If software/computer companies were prepared to sponsor not for profits they could keep their technology up to date
NFP’s need to embrace suitable technologies as much as possible, but need to be selective about which particular ones they choose. A small (in number of people in particular) NFP such as ours has to maximise its use of ICT to make up for lack of numbers and to work smarter.
Better guidance and more resources. We have ‘top of the range’ database but it is not effectively used because staff do not have expertise and we do not have consultant or other expert setting direction etc.
And this was a common theme…
We struggle to stay up to date. There is old news on the website, it takes half a day to send a bulk email, slow Internet, old computers – basically it eats into your time.
It’s a bit like the ‘olden days’ revisited, when only a small number of people at the higher end of society had access to books. They became the community leaders and held the power of information and knowledge over those who not only couldn’t afford books but couldn’t read them anyway. Lack of knowledge and equal access to information created a huge divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. In today’s high tech world of global information, those who not only have access to it but, have the knowledge to utilise IT technology to it’s full potential, have the advantage. The fact that the NFP sector doesn’t have the benefit of equal resources to access and develop their skills and use of IT products puts this already resource limited community sector at a distinct disadvantage! The NFP sector, the ‘have-nots’ continue to bring up the rear and with technology moving faster and faster, we just can’t keep up. I doubt we will ever catch up…
Some 62% of recipients say they use electronic newsletters to support their organisations mission and another 38% have online donations. Another 32% use donor or funds management computer programs.
Centralised databases, intra-net, wireless networks and easily up-datable websites are just a few of the items on the new technology wish lists of Think Tank participants.
Another wish list item was VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol. It’s the technology for transmitting ordinary telephone calls over the Internet and lets you make free long-distance phone calls using your computer. (If you want to find out more about VoIP check out the following web site: http://www.voip-voice-over-ip.com )
More than half of the participants (53%) reveal that their source of information about new ICT comes from family and friends! Some 34% get their information from e-newsletters like Pro Bono Australia, other search the web via Google, read trade magazines (21%) or ask Board members (17%).
Some participants from the business sector dealing regularly with NFP’s say they have experienced frustration with organisations because of technology issues.
But on a positive note some participants feel that this somewhat being addressed via partnerships with corporates and the ‘continued professionalism of the NFP sector through the recruitment of younger more savvy CEO’s”!