Note from Beth: Back in 2003 when most people in the nonprofit sector were asking, “What the heck is a blog?,” Marnie Webb, Co-CEO of TechSoup Global was not only writing one, but evangelizing to nonprofit techies about social media (called Web 2.0 back then) and being the one of the visionaries behind the Netsquared project. So, when Marnie starts talking about the next big disruptive technology for the nonprofit sector, I listen. For the past year or so, she’s thinking about and talking about “Cloud Computing.” That’s when you use software on the Internet versus your local hard drive or local computer network. It makes your data and documents available anywhere, anytime.
TechSoup has just released the results of a global study if NGOs about cloud computing with some interesting findings.
Cloud Computing Survey Results from TechSoup Global
At TechSoup Global, the place at which I work, we wanted to know what NGOs worldwide thought about cloud computing. So we asked and more than 10,500 organizations from 88 countries and they answered. We’ve published those results and our partner network has translated the executive summary into a wide variety of languages.
And here’s why we care so much about the cloud:
- We care about the ability of communities to create change. That requires that organizations are able to spend as much time on the mission as possible. It also requires the ability to connect, to share, to communicate – in real time. And the cloud helps that. From project management software to communications platforms, the ability to use cloud-based solutions to quickly and effectively stand up a technology application and allow others to integrate is critical to the kind of success that we’ve seen in the projects submitted in NetSquared challenges.
- We think we can all benefit from data. Here’s the deal: cloud computing means that people are keeping data in similar formats. Or it can, anyway. If we offer solutions in the cloud, we can provide configuration, sure, but we can offer a way for data to be captured that extends to multiple organizations. And that means advocacy and access can happen in ways similar to open government efforts.
What Do We Think We’ve Learned With This Survey?
I feel lucky to be involved with this project.
I’ve been in on all the phone calls. Read all the interim reports. Heard what people in TechSoup Global were thinking along the way – what they agreed with and what they disagreed with. And here’s what I’m thinking about right now:
- We need to offer more precise solutions. We heard that from Africa, India and Latin America. We need things that get to more specific solutions – solutions that work in verticals and minimize configuration.
- We still have significant externalities that impact organizations’ ability to take advantage of technology. We need to be supporting the good work that people like Inveneo are doing to help make those externalities &mdash No reliable power! No internet! &mdash a thing of the past. But that support needs to be there, in equal measure, for those organizations who can connect but, for whatever reasons, have not yet done so.
- Training, you know, is something everyone needs. And it’s hard. Because we say we need it. We know we need it. But in the press of the every day and the big intransigent difficulties we are each grappling with, it’s hard to make “go to a technology training class” the most important thing on the to-do list. We have to figure out how we, as capacity builders, leverage technology and our relationships across a number of sectors to offer answers to questions on demand, create mentorships, office hours for experts who are willing to donate their expertise. We need to think about how we get knowledge to people where and when they need it. And how we do that when getting the answer is urgent.
- We need to know more about the technology usage of the organizations we all serve. We all know bits and pieces of the usage. And surveys, like this one, like NTEN’s State of the Cloud, help us. But we can also do a better job of thinking through the strengths and capacities we each bring, fitting those together so that we can get to solution that work on the ground for the organizations we serve. We try to do that in the TechSoup Global Network. We don’t always succeed. I’m not asking for a big giant enforced collaboration project here. I’m asking that we actually find three tangible projects that we can move forward in the next year to help us bring a greater degree of technology saavy and support to the organizations we are dedicated to helping.
So what are the next steps?
I wish I knew. But I don’t. And that’s some of why we published these results. So that we can figure it out together. As you go through the survey, I’m eager to hear what you think, what you learned and what you believe we can do together.
Marnie Webb works for TechSoup Global.