The digital age has eliminated boundaries and brought the world closer together through ease of access. Given the existing pace of innovation and investment, the promise of progressive technologies is limitless. However, the not-for-profit sector, along with its various stakeholder groups has only recently begun to realise that the forces of technology can be harnessed to bring about more widespread impact in the social sector.
In a country where c.276 million people survive on less than $1.25 a day, many individuals and organisations have attempted to address the underlying issues and problems. Yet, these initiatives have often produced limited results in the larger scheme of things due to the sheer number of issues that need to be taken into account and the large demography that they affect. This can perhaps be attributed to both silo-ed efforts and the use of fundamentally non-scalable methods.
In such a situation, many are starting to understand and acknowledge that the effective use of technology can help magnify the outcomes of the efforts undertaken by government and social sector organisations alike.
Here are 5 ways in which technology can help the social sector:
Easy Access to Information
Far-reaching impact can be achieved simply by making data available to a wider audience. As technology increases access, content attracts a larger number of eyeballs as more people get used to consuming digital content. An example of this phenomenon is how websites like Khan Academy (https://www.khanacademy.org/) and Wikipedia (https://www.wikipedia.org/) have empowered people to self-educate themselves on a variety of topics. Or take ImmunizeIndia (http://immunizeindia.org/) , which is a free SMS service that sends timely vaccination reminders to registered numbers. There are others that are establishing important connections – Govtify (http://govtify.weebly.com/) which is attempting to actively bridging the gap between non-profits and the Government.
Collecting Information – Crowdsourcing and Smartsourcing
In many cases, people see a situation from different perspectives which, like a mosaic, can be brought together to create a pattern that would otherwise go undetected. Technologies that support data collection and analysis can be very effective in pulling together scattered evidence that can help in a multitude of situations. For example, Janaagraha’s I Paid A Bribe (https://janaagraha.org/) initiative aims to tackle corruption by providing citizens with a platform where they can report the nature, number, pattern, types, location, frequency and values of actual corrupt acts. Crowdsourced inputs also help to validate, ascertain and add credibility to information.
With smartphones and tablets, gathering information at source has the ability to significantly improve data accuracy and eliminate cumbersome and lengthy processes. ‘Smartsourcing’ is likely to become the cornerstone of crucial processes such as monitoring and assessment in the near future.
Technology can improve the reach of products and services which can improve the lives of the underserved. MicroEnsure (http://microensure.com/locations/asia/india/ ) uses mobile telecommunications to provide low-income customers across Asia and Africa with insurance products specifically tailored to their needs. Risks related to life, health, agriculture, assets, accidents and political violence are all taken into account.
Technology based solutions can also help create greater impact by helping parties quickly establish interconnectedness and look for compatible information matches. These partnerships can be mutually beneficial and can help in achieving results on the ground. Our website, www.ngoimpact.com provides NGOs with a credible digital presence and helps donor, corporates, philanthropists, individuals etc. identify and choose the right social sector partner.
Improved Access To Funding
Technology is playing an important role in creating a market based on social good and in turn connecting beneficiaries with funding streams. IndieGogo (https://www.indiegogo.com/) is an international crowdfunding website which provides a platform for organisations and individuals to create fundraising campaigns for causes that they care about. https://www.ngoimpact.com serves a similar purpose where NGOs and social enterprises can discover and find connections, funding, CSR sponsors, volunteers, advisory support etc.
Ray Kurzweil, Google’s director of engineering and a renowned expert on artificial intelligence, has observed, “Once any domain, discipline, technology, or industry becomes information-enabled and powered by information flows, its price/performance begins doubling approximately annually.”
Technology undoubtedly has the potential to offer solutions to some of the world’s most pressing and complicated issues. In India, the sectors the stand to gain the most are – Education, Financial Services and Healthcare. With the exponential increase in and penetration of new mobile technology, the way in which social sector organisations and new entrepreneurial ventures function are likely to be transformed for the better.