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NGOs Overcoming the Education Curve to Embrace Cloud!

Cloud Computing

This post was authored by Nick Eyre, Director, Fundacja TechSoup, our office in Europe and originally appeared on the Microsoft Europe Blog.

E-skills are no longer required only for those who work in IT departments, but for everyone participating in a digitized economy. The new economy is a digital economy. It's notable that many of the goals and metrics outlined in the European Commission's new Digital Agenda – public Internet use, availability of government services over the Internet, broadband adoption among disadvantaged groups – are areas in which the third sector plays a crucial role.

Many Europeans will only be able to benefit from this agenda if indeed the NGOs that help them access and use such services are part of the equation. It’s clear from these statements that increasingly, solutions that serve both public and private needs will be offered via the cloud. Overall, this is likely a good thing and will make all kinds of information and assistance available to a much broader population, in increasingly cost-effective and appropriate ways.

But in order for the public and social sectors to work together to build a better connected Europe, we must be sure that NGOs are equipped with not only appropriate cloud computing tools but also the skills to use those tools at their full capacity. My organization, Central and Eastern European based Fundacja TechSoup, is part of the TechSoup Global Network that supports the ICT needs of NGOs and public libraries around the world. Through relationships with technology donors like Microsoft, we're able to equip organizations with donated software and hardware. We are also able to help people working in the third sector learn to use technology to its fullest potential.

As cloud-based software and services have become a more prominent part of the equation, we've begun to reflect on how the cloud stands to transform the social sector. NGOs and charities have a lot to gain from the wider adoption of cloud-based technologies, but in order to take full advantage of the cloud, many organizations must learn new ways of administering programs, collaborating, and collecting and using data. Just as government agencies offer services and make transparent their data in various e-government initiatives, NGOs and charities must also take a similar initiative to better serve their clients.

By adopting cloud technology in their operations, organizations can potentially increase the availability and accessibility of their services without significantly increasing their costs. It'll be easier to gather information and assess the needs of their clients, and their data will be more resilient and portable. Not only is resilient and portable data important for providing policymakers with important data about key communities, portable data also serves as a safety net when organizations face a major disaster that would have previously resulted in loss of critical data. Still, the challenge of maintaining a well managed system to access that data remains.

By providing not only the basic technology but also the skills necessary to manage that technology, TechSoup, together with partners like Microsoft and many others across Europe, are committed to enabling organizations to be connected in a sustainable way. Using cloud services may be new to many, but using ICT smartly shouldn’t.

As some of our partners can attest, if an organization's work is spread haphazardly among multiple incompatible systems, then the cloud won't help it. Its cloud-based infrastructures will simply be replicas of their current, poorly planned ICT setups. On the other hand, when organizations acquire the skills to manage their programs in a coordinated way, they're able to harness the power of the cloud to work more efficiently, more securely, and at less cost to themselves and the environment. We work together with many partners to ensure that this is the case.

Helping organizations manage their technology now ensures that they can leverage the cloud to support their missions; providing e-skills necessary for the leaders of tomorrow ensures that a skilled workforce is ready for the ICT challenges in the future. Watch this space for further news where business innovation in the cloud meets social innovation…

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