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Technology can be an amazing tool for social and economic development. It can help people get a better education, learn new skills to earn a living wage, or start a business. It can also enable organizations to meet community needs by broadening access to healthcare, education micro-banking and other essential services.
Technology today has been greatly impacted by the growing connectivity among devices, mobile phones, the PC and the browser. This convergence allows people and organizations to access information and to communicate and collaborate in more powerful ways. It is being driven by a number of factors:
Over the next 3-5 years we will see a new paradigm in computing where the use of devices will be increasingly seamless. You will be able to use your phone, your PC and browser, and even your television in an integrated way, regardless of location.
This new paradigm offers great potential to improve how we all work, but even greater potential for nonprofits to manage their operations and deliver services more effectively and achieve greater impact for the communities they serve.
How can these technologies be used by social mission organizations, social entrepreneurs, NGOs and nonprofits to benefit the most vulnerable people in society? I see four new models of social change:
These new models hold great promise for the social sector to transform their work and create tremendous impact. The reality is, however, that many nonprofits do not feel prepared to take advantage of these new models.
Together, we must all take a proactive and methodical approach to ensuring nonprofits are adopting IT effectively and planning appropriately so that they can benefit from the solutions and platforms that will be available and use them to advance social change.
Editor's Note: a longer paper from Microsoft's Community Affairs team on this topic, entitled Unleashing Technology to Advance Social and Economic Development, is available for download here.