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«CONTENT BY SUPPORTED BY Technology for Good at a Glance Technology for Good identifies ten technologies being used by charitable organizations in ...»

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Technology for good:

Innovative use of

technology by charities


Technology for Good at a Glance

Technology for Good identifies ten technologies being used by charitable

organizations in innovative ways. The report briefly introduces each

technology and provides examples of how those technologies are being


Examples are drawn from a broad spectrum of organizations working on widely varied issues around the globe. This makes Technology for Good a unique repository of inspiration for the public and private sectors, funders, and other change makers who support the creation and use of technology for social good.

The top ten technologies selected are:

Mobile technology: Mobile devices that range from low-end 1 talk and text phones to smartphones or tablets.

Tracking technology: GPS or other monitoring systems that 2 track people and goods.

Mapping technology: Tools that organize geographic data 3 and feed data sets into a digital map.

Social media and crowdsourcing: Data collection through 4 open-sources.

Data management technologies: Tools for processing large 5 amounts of data or improving administrative functions.

Radio/TV: New uses of these two important mass 6 communication mediums in the developing world.

Technology for good At a glance | 2 Translation Tools: Quick or immediate translations using a 7 combination of technology and crowdsourcing.

Cloud Technology: Computing that allows access to software and information via the Internet instead of a hard drive or 8 computer network.

Portable Networks: Moveable devices that can create instant 9 Internet connectivity or telecommunication networks.

Drone Technology: Unmanned aerial vehicles used to 10 leapfrog infrastructural deficits.

In determining the top ten trends, we chose technology that has the potential for wide reach, deep impact, and ease of use.

What You Can Learn For nonprofits and other charitable organizations, the report offers many examples of how technology can help organizations achieve their missions, even with modest means.

For funders, the report compiles a variety of successful projects, demonstrating the deep impact of funding technology innovation.

Finally, for everyone interested in creating positive social change, the projects described in Technology for Good offer a number of interesting lessons.

Lesson 1: Waiting Is Not an Option The barriers to positive social change are significant. One billion people currently don’t have access to adequate year-round roads,1 and 1.2 billion do not have a regular supply of electricity.2 Worldwide Internet penetration rates are under 40 percent, with some regions as low as 15.6 percent.3 Creating this infrastructure would take years, if not decades. And even in regions with stable infrastructure, a war or natural disaster can render transportation and communication difficult or impossible.

Because there are urgent needs that must be addressed, charitable organizations have found ingenious ways to continue doing their good work, regardless of infrastructure

challenges. For example:

Unmanned aerial crafts, or “drones,” have troubling associations with surveillance ¤ and war. They also have the potential to deliver aid and supplies to areas that would otherwise be inaccessible due to inadequate roads or dangerous conditions. The Matternet device, a fusion of an unmanned drone with a GPS, could deliver supplies to an aid agency or local clinic within minutes, regardless of the situation on the ground.

1 Ariel Schwartz, “The Matternet: A Flying Autonomous Delivery System for the Developing World,” 30 August 2011, http://www.


2 International Energy Agency, “Global Tracking Framework,” http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/ globaltrackingframework.pdf.

3 Internet World Stats, http://www.internetworldstats.com/list2.htm.

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Lesson 3: Make Innovation Sustainable The best tech idea in the world can’t have a lasting impact if it isn’t sustainable. Technology for Good describes a variety of interesting ways that technology projects have been kept

running long-term, including:

Uganda’s mTrac data management system replaces cumbersome paper-based ¤ tracking with simple SMS-based reporting on disease outbreaks and drug supplies.

After the initial investment in building the mTrac software and training users, the program is incredibly low in cost. Because Ugandan healthcare workers use their own mobile phones to send SMS messages, the entire national system costs just US$182 a month.

Also in Uganda, the Community Knowledge Worker program helps poor farmers ¤ boost agricultural productivity and income. Community Knowledge Workers collect data and best practices through a specially designed survey app. That data is then shared with the community. The program is self-sustaining because agricultural ministries, charities, and other organizations are willing to pay for the collected data.

Lesson 4: Collaboration Is a Must Most of the technology innovations in Technology for Good weren’t created, implemented, or sustained by just one organization or individual. Many of these technologies required ongoing collaboration between charities, the public sector, and the private sector. For


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Learn More These are just a few examples of what the Technology for Good report offers. In the coming months, TechSoup Global will dive deeper into the technologies presented in the report, sharing best practices and lessons learned in detail. The first piece in this series, covering recent innovations in crisis mapping, was published in the Guardian in October 2013.4 Acknowledgements The report was created by TechSoup Global in collaboration with the Guardian.

4 Ariel Gilbert-Knight, 8 Oct 2013, “Social Media, Crisis Mapping and the New Frontier in Disaster Response, http://www.theguardian.com/ global-development-professionals-network/2013/oct/08/social-media-microtasking-disaster-response.

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Agriculture In 2010, the Grameen Foundation launched the Community Knowledge Worker (CKW) project to help poor farmers in Uganda boost agricultural productivity, efficiency, and income. Among smallholder farmers, crop failures or loss of livestock can ruin a family already struggling to make ends meet, so information on how to address problems is crucial.

Grameen armed farmers, selected as CKWs by their local communities, with smartphones and trained them to collect data through a specially designed survey app. The app provides agricultural best practices such as caring for livestock, producing crops, eradicating pests and disease, and obtaining market prices for produce and livestock. The data can also be used to monitor agricultural trends and potentially curb pest or disease outbreaks before they become epidemic.

The information improves the farmers’ productivity and in turn, increases their income. The program is also self-sustainable as agricultural ministries, charities, and other organizations pay for the collected data. The database currently holds more than 35,000 current tips on 1 Interview with Matt Berg, ICT Director, Millennium Village Project.

2 World Bank Data, “Internet Users (per 100)”; “Mobile Cellular Subscriptions (per 100)”; Economist, “It’s a PC World,” 29 December 2009, http://www.economist.com/node/15062710 3 GSMA, Africa Mobile Observatory 2011, p. 29-34, http://www.gsma.com/publicpolicy/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/ africamobileobservatory2011-1.pdf

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education Amjad Hassan lives in a remote village in Pakistan where both he and his teachers must go to great lengths to get to school. As a result, neither students nor teachers are able to show up consistently to school. How did he pass his exams and gain admittance to university?

Mobile education has become a cheap and powerful alternative to traditional classroombased education. Amjad uses the Academic Text Service in Pakistan to ask questions about his coursework via a basic mobile phone, not a smartphone. “The great thing about this service is that you are able to ask questions and get answers so I was able to pass my entrance examination for university,” Amjad Hassan told the BBC. Mehsim Samir of the Academic Text Service in Pakistan says that it costs less than one U.S. cent to send and receive these texts.

They also offer services like career counseling and effective  time management.8 4 Grameen Foundation, http://www.grameenfoundation.applab.org/AppLab-Ag.html 5 Grameen Foundation, http://www.ckw.applab.org/ckw/uploads/The%20Difference%20a%20CKW%20makes.pdf 6 Ibid.

7 GSMA, 29-34.

8 Nosheen Abbas, “Cell Phone Education in Pakistan,” BBC, 25 October 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20009040 Technology for good Mobile technology | 7 In February 2011, close to 150 students at Asghar Mall College in Rawalapindi, Pakistan volunteered to take vocabulary quizzes via their mobile phones. The program was piloted by the Provincial Education Department of the Government of the Punjab. The quizzes were individually tailored, addressing each student by name — through a simple mail merge — and kept track of students’ answers. It was the first time for many students that they received one-to-one, personalized instruction. Due to the program’s success, the Punjab government is exploring other ways to engage not only students, but parents and teachers as well. They might send text message to parents, asking them to engage and ask questions about their child’s curriculum, or use mobile phone GPS to track teacher attendance.9 Mike Trucano, the World Bank’s Senior ICT and Education Policy Specialist writes, “While Pakistan may not see high household penetration rates of desktop computers connected to the Internet for many, many years to come, most every household already has access to a small connected ‘computer’ of a different sort — the mobile phone — and this project is seeking to capitalize on this reality.”10 In several of the United Nations millennium villages, the One Million Community Health Workers project uses mobile phones to provide on-the-job-training and patient education.

Workers use mobile learning plans to learn about reproductive health and caring for newborns while patients can receive similar information.11 In these scenarios, mobile learning overcomes some of the social barriers to traditional learning such as gender issues — providing women the ability to learn in the privacy and safety of their homes.

The World Bank recently began to take note of mobile education, particularly since it provides a more immediate solution than 1-to-1 computing initiatives to provide every child with one laptop. In 2011, the World Bank launched the Mobiles for Education Development (m4Ed4Dev) Alliance, gathering international professionals in both private and public sectors to highlight case studies, best practices, and lessons learned.12 healthcare Mobile technology has had a great impact on healthcare in developing countries where access to hospitals is either difficult or impossible. Telemedicine is the practice of providing remote diagnoses via mobile phones, which can be used to immediately capture symptoms and other data without requiring the patient to make a time-consuming trip to the hospital. Smaller clinics can obtain speedy medical support from larger hospitals for hard-to-diagnose illnesses. Mobile technology also provides a quick and private way to disseminate vital health information, particularly during disease outbreaks. Finally, with the rise of counterfeit drugs in the developing world, a mobile phone can act as a scanner to quickly determine the medicine’s validity.

The GSMA development fund has been pioneering the use of mobile technology, and improving the way in which healthcare professionals collect data. In Rwanda, GSMA, along with MTN and Voxiva, has implemented a system that allows healthcare field workers to collect data via mobile technology, tracking the number of patients who have contracted a contagious disease and at what stage those who have been treated. This method of data collection is more efficient and also reduces the errors and delays common with traditional paper-based methods.13 Cell-Life NPC, a charity based in South Africa, provides various health services including HIV/AIDS outpatient services via mobile phone. Studies have shown that mobile technology plays a crucial role in controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS by delivering appointment reminders and improving communication between healthcare workers and their patients. The same information also improves the ability for doctors to diagnose and offer treatment. Finally, SMS allows the delivery of quality healthcare at a low cost.

Since the Red Cross began using SMS in 2010, they have sent around 100 million messages, reaching more than 3.5 million people. They use the TERA system, which 9 Michael Trucano, “SMS Education in Pakistan,” World Bank, 25 April 2011, http://blogs.worldbank.org/edutech/sms-education-pakistan 10 Ibid.

11 GSMA, 30.

12 Michael Trucano, “More on SMS Use in Education in Pakistan,” World Bank, 6 July 2011, http://blogs.worldbank.org/edutech/smseducation-pakistan 13 GSMA, 31.

Technology for good Mobile technology | 8 allows them to send targeted SMS messages, specifying a particular region where it would like the SMS message to be sent. Traditional SMS requires broadcast messages to be sent to everyone in on its network.14 TERA also provides a very simple interface: a Google maps type of view allows you to select the areas you want to target and compose a message for that group of people.

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