These days, technology plays an integral role in both the lives of consumers as well as the day-to-day operations of businesses and organizations. The private sector has long been using it to create value and improve the bottom line, and as of late—local and international non-profits have also been employing the latest technologies to advance their causes.
Non-profits and NGOs involved in conservation, health, education, agriculture, human rights and many other efforts and initiatives are especially adept at using technology to drive their programs and initiatives. The following are 11 you need to know about in 2017 and beyond.
One of IUCN’s key objectives is to share the knowledge gathered by its global community of 16,000 scientists. The organization’s knowledge products consist of conservation databases and tools which have already proved helpful to hundreds of organizations. Collectively, the solution is called “Species, Protected Areas, Law, and Ecosystem Databases.” Many conservation organizations rely on IUCN’s resources for researching and referencing wildlife species’ biological information and statuses.
Tostan’s model merges education and development goals in a “three year nonformal education program” that helps rural communities create and manage their own localized development strategies. Its Solar Power! Project, in collaboration with the Barefoot College in India, sponsors women from rural Africa in a six-month training program in solar electrical engineering. After completing the program, solar engineers return to their communities and install one solar unit in at least 50 homes, providing each family with a fixed lamp, solar lantern, LED flashlight, and mobile phone charging device.
GiveDirectly is an innovative NGO that uses technology to cut out the middle men and extraneous expenses related to giving, enabling donors to direct funds directly to individuals and families in need. The concept is simple: donors give directly through the website; GiveDirectly then locates in-need Kenyan and Ugandan households and transfers the funds to them electronically via their mobile phone.
WFP partners with NGOs, UN agencies, and governments around the world in its mission to improve food security and nutrition globally. The organization uses satellite imagery, spatial analysis, and GIS tools to map vegetation, crop coverage, market locations, and water sources in areas that are prone to natural disasters. It also uses mobile phones to monitor and analyze market data in remote areas: buyers, traders or other informants communicate information about food availability, the functioning of local markets, and food prices to agencies using SMS.
CRS uses digital tools such as geohazard mapping technologies to identify areas that are prone to natural disasters (e.g., flash floods, soil erosion, landslides). When natural disasters occur, these technologies are used to map out where roads have been destroyed or washed away and to pinpoint the location of victims. The organization first started these tools/systems during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to map out destroyed homes, track the construction of 10,500 transitional structures, and calculate the volume of rubble. It has since expanded the program to Madagascar, the Central Africa Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and plans to reach 30 other emergency-prone countries over the next few years.
Originally a collaboration between UNICEF and the state of India, Pratham is actively using elearning technologies to advance its mission of “Every child in school and learning well.” The organization is collaborating with the Vodafone Foundation in its Digital Classrooms/Learn, Out of the Box initiative, a program that aims to bring cost-effective digital learning solutions to 50,000 children and 1,000 low-income schools in 12 Indian states.
Founded by a local film director Rithy Panh, Bophana Center aims to collect/archive all media (e.g., images, film, sound/audio) relevant to Cambodia. The center offers free public access to this unique heritage and trains young Cambodians for careers in filmmaking, broadcasting, and new media. At its lab, Cambodian films left over from 1960s are stored for posterity and public viewing.
ROTA helps to reconstruct fragile education systems in Asia with nine different areas of focus: teacher training, youth empowerment, environmental education, to name a few. Its innovative use of technology has allowed over 2,000,000 students worldwide to connect and engage in collaborative projects through the organization’s iEARN-Qatar project. In one year, nearly 100 buildings were reconstructed or rehabilitated and over 30,000 students were provided with access to education in safe, secure and/or flood resistant school buildings.
LitWorld aims to close the global literacy gap by “strengthening kids and communities through the power of their own stories.” Solar lanterns subsidized by the organization replace kerosene lanterns in family homes—this helps to reduce lighting costs, prevent unhealthy fumes, enable at-home studies for students, among other benefits.
Wildlife Alliance partners with local communities and governments to combat deforestation, wildlife extinction, climate change, and poverty; in 2015, the organization’s Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) unit was honored with the UN’s award for best wildlife law enforcement in Asia. The organization actively employs cutting edge technologies in its efforts—for example, advanced camera traps are used to record wildlife appearances/activities in the jungle
In partnership with the Free Library of Philadelphia, CDI—via its Techmobile offering—provides Philadelphia residents in marginalized communities with free internet access via moving “pop-up” computer labs. The organization recently received the Humanitarian of the World Award, as well as recognition by the World Bank and the World Economic Forum, among others.
Like today’s leading business and consumer-based startups, these 11 NGOs and non-profits are leveraging tech innovation to drive their initiatives—however, instead of creating products and services for revenue generation, these organizations are leveraging digitization to improve the lives of impoverished and disenfranchised communities. Be sure to keep them on your radar in 2017 and beyond as they advance their noble causes to make the world a better place for all global citizens.