Technology Challenges - The NFP Perspective
18 June 2007 at 4:10 pm
Governments around Australia need to recognise the challenges faced by NGOs in terms of funding their IT needs according to one NSW Not for Profit organisation at the coalface of dealing with rapidly changing technology.
TRI Community Exchange provides training, resources, information and technical support to the community services sector in Western Sydney. It also works collaboratively with agencies to promote social justice issues.
Silvia Bethencourt, TRI’s Community Information Coordinator says there is a clear disparity between government expectations and NGOs’ actual resources in terms of ICT.
She says in many cases NGOs are "pressed" to implement technology solutions by government, without sufficient opportunity to evaluate the benefits or drawbacks and without adequate training and as a result technology becomes a burden rather than a tool.
Bethencourt says from TRI’s experience there are many challenges in both taking up and maintaining IT.
Cost: the funding constraints and demands, lack of IT component in funding guidelines/submissions/agreements, the high cost of hardware/software (both outlaying and maintenance), the hidden costs of using second-hand/outdated hardware/software (and the loss of productivity and reliability).
No physical access: a lack of infrastructure and facilities where IT resources are heavily in demand but restricted to some users only.
Inappropriate software: software applications are not always designed to cater for Not for Profit needs; and software development is expensive.
No support: none but large NGOs have access to in-house IT support; cost of private IT support is often prohibitive
No training: lack of affordable training; lack of training initiatives especially designed for the needs of NGOs
Time constraints: finding time to take part in collaborative processes, to participate in training, to plan and implement IT strategies
Lack of understanding of IT causes people to be fearful of it, fearful of change.
Information overload: so many emails and websites, so little time, too much information, and how to find what they need
Perceived lack of benefits: there is a perception that Not for Profits core business of working with people is incompatible with the use of technology i.e. "I work with people not machines".
No policy framework resulting from planning and implementation of IT strategies, both by NGOs and Government.
Bethencourt says there is a lack of awareness or understanding by policy makers and funding bodies of the need for an IT component within an NGOs financial management.
Not for Profit diversity: challenges associated with the diversity of NFP service provision in the community sector and how this relates to IT solutions, which can’t be universal. Also there are difficulties in sharing information due to diversity of computer systems that NGOs use for example different Windows versions, different software, outdated programs.
Bethencourt says TRI has been working with the Department of Community Services through Families NSW (formerly Families First) and service providers to develop a database to report their outcomes.
She says as services are moving toward results based accountability they need tools to record their service details. TRI has developed a database to do this as well as record other information for service planning. This tool can be used by any service wanting to report their outcomes to their funding bodies.
For more information go to: www.tricomm.org.au