Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
There’s an increasing number of organizations focusing on making investments in communications technology and equipment that will generate savings in energy and travel costs over time.
The World Wildlife Federation in Finland is doing just that. “We avoid unnecessary travel by using new communications technology effectively,” said WWF Finlands’s former finance manager, Harri Lundelin.
The WWF is a nature conservation organization that encourages people and communities to protect the environment. The WWF’s employees and volunteers work towards saving the world’s most unique natural habitats and endangered species. The WWF place a lot of importance of being model example of the very behaviors they encourage their supporters to adopt.
To achieve these goals, the WWF needed access to the latest technology. With a software donation from Microsoft, WWF Finland deployed the Microsoft Unified Communications system (now known as “Microsoft Lync”), a telephony, instant messaging, and presence tool which makes communication between WWF staff more efficient and frees them from the constraints of time, place, and equipment. With the new system, WWF staff can easily call each other from their desks, see who is online, instant message each other, share desktops, host conference calls, and more. They have improved their communications while saving costs and operating in a more environmentally sustainable manner.
“One of our employees works in Zanzibar, Tanzania, and we keep in touch through Office Communicator. Modern technology opens up entirely new possibilities for real-time communication," said Lundelin. "Initially, we just wanted to develop teleconferencing, as we wanted to avoid unnecessary travel. The WWF has worked with Microsoft in the past, and they helped us with this solution as well."
The Unified Communications solution donated by Microsoft didn’t just offer advanced communications possibilities. The Office Communicator Server combined with Windows Server also enabled simultaneous editing of documents by several persons. "Actually, managing and sharing documents is the most important thing for me. For example, it is extremely handy to open an Excel document for editing, and let someone else see my edits on his/her computer. Speaking with the other person via the computer at the same time is also easy," he added.
"This makes telecommuting easier, since people can now genuinely choose their working location and time. All this has an obvious connection to well-being at work," he adds.
More nonprofit technology resources:
Microsoft has a global software donations program that brings the benefits of affordable software to nonprofits around the world like WWF Finland. Find out more about the program here.
Does your nonprofit get software donations from Microsoft?
Find out more about Microsoft nonprofit donations and how you can let your favorite nonprofit know here.
Want to learn more about getting a software donation for your nonprofit organization? Visit www.microsoft.com/nonprofit.
*Harri Lundelin retired in 2010.
By John DaSilva, Project Development Manager, Kenan Institute Asia
It’s not so easy to fit an organization like Kenan Institute Asia (K.I.Asia) into a description of your typical NGO. We’re as likely to design an intellectual property rights training curriculum for SMEs as we are to conduct IT workforce training for a factory worker, or just as likely to teach business professors in Vietnam the concept of sustainable enterprise as we are to teach a farmer in Cambodia how to be an entrepreneur. The only truly amazing part of all this is that we’ve been doing it for 15 years now, and it took us 14 years to realize we needed to do it smarter - that meant better technology.
K.I.Asia is a Thailand based, not for profit development organization conducting sustainable development activities in Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Vietnam and Southern China. Working from our main office in Bangkok, Thailand and conducting activities in five countries means our staff of 50 development professionals can be on the road for a considerable amount of time every year. As we all need to pitch in to do project work, including reporting for some very demanding clients like USAID, and project development fundraising, from diverse organizations like Microsoft, the United Nations Development Program and New Zealand AID, our staff were getting hammered using old technology. In particular, we were spending too much time e-mailing data to be reentered manually and not enough time collaborating effectively.
Thanks to a US $136,000 software grant from Microsoft, which included Dynamics CRM and Sharepoint, this is all changing. With CRM, we are much more efficient at updating our project opportunities and recording meetings notes, client deadlines and underlying funding cycles of our clients and potential clients. With Sharepoint, we have created specialized project pages, where project managers, finance and accounting, and the key client manager can have updated information at their fingers tips and remotely update this information in real time, unlike with an FTP server. All of this has meant less time e-mailing and requesting information, which has led to better client services. Ultimately, this means we are generating more resources and implementing more projects to help develop the region more efficiently.
The result, in 2010, K.I.Asia implemented 33 discreet projects in five countries that allowed us to build the capacity of nearly 6,000 direct beneficiaries, including professors, principals, teachers, and students; migrants, at-risk women, farmers and rural community members; entrepreneurs, small business owners, business associations, corporate managers; public health professionals and government officials; and small and community NGOs. Although this may have been possible without our new Microsoft technology, it would have taken much more time and had a much higher opportunity cost.
Microsoft has a global software donations program that brings the benefits of affordable software to nonprofits around the world. Does your favorite nonprofit know about the program? Find out more here.
Thomas Bell, Director, Integrated Technology Initiative, Ashoka: Innovators for the Public
There is a room at the Ashoka offices in Arlington, Virginia, a room that would be familiar to many IT managers, filled with servers - racks and racks of servers. These servers produce lots and lots of heat, so in addition to the servers we also have air conditioners that we run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to keep these racks and racks of servers cool. Since these servers provide mission critical services to our international operations, such as email, file storage, backup, and the like, they require constant attention to ensure the hardware and software is functioning properly. To this end, we engage a team of people dedicated to spending at least some of their time tending to these racks and racks of servers to keep them running, accessible, and secure. Now, imagine this same pattern being repeated at thousands of NGOs around the world: certainly not the most efficient use of resources.
Information technology is capable of transforming the NGO sector’s ability to efficiently and effectively serve their constituencies. From back office systems (e.g., email, CRM, finance/accounting) to mission-focused solutions (e.g., m-health, e-government, disaster response), information technology has enabled NGOs to leverage often meager resources to provide services and reach communities in ways that would have been impossible without an information technology solution. Having said that, the model in which each NGO must create and maintain the infrastructure to support its use of information technology - its own serverfarm and datacenter - is coming to a close. Advances in server capacity, every expanding connectivity, and developments in the Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) ecosystems are opening the possibility for NGO IT departments to get out of the business of managing servers and focusing more of their attention directly on the business of changing the world.
With the support of our friends at Microsoft and NetHope (www.nethope.org), Ashoka has undertaken a project to let go of our existing Exchange servers and migrate onto Microsoft’s recently released Office365 platform in support of our roughly 300 staff operating in over 20 countries around the world. This is no small task, mind you. Ashoka prides itself on encouraging entrepreneurship both within and outside the organization and, as a result, our technology infrastructure has evolved in a highly ‘organic’ way that has required a significant amount of housecleaning in order to take advantage of the opportunities the Office365 platform exposes. But at the end of the day this migration will enable us to remove several of our existing servers from production along with the related backup, networking, power, and maintenance infrastructure taking us one step closer to the aspirational ‘serverless’ NGO goal.
At Ashoka, we believe that there is an emerging system change taking place in the IT field that has the potential to dramatically change the way NGOs access IT solutions both for their back office and programmatic focuses. To be sure, it is still early days in the maturation of the SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS ecosystems and, as such, there are new challenges and risks associated with their use that must be prudently considered. Yet, at the end of the day, we believe that our time and energy are better spent on building the social and technical infrastructure that enables the emergence of the ‘Everyone a Changemaker’ world than on managing servers and software updates. We are exceptionally happy to be partnering with Microsoft and NetHope to demonstrate how these emerging systems can transform the NGO sector use of information technology and, ultimately, enhance impact.
Patna in Bihar, India is a place where you run into development experts from around the world from the World Bank to the Asian Development Bank, UK Department for International Development, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The challenges and opportunities in Bihar are what draw all of these developments experts to Patna. Bihar is one of the most fertile parts of the world – especially northern Bihar where eight rivers flow from the Himalayas, yet it remains one of the poorest States in India. Twenty years ago when I came to Patna all I saw was hopelessness, people felt they had no future. This time around the scene is very different, one sees hope and the possibilities of change everywhere.
Fatima, Suresh and Deepak Kumar are just three of the several young people I met who personify this hope. I was here to visit the work we are doing in partnership with the Aga Khan Rural Support Program (AKRSP) training rural youth in basic computer skills in two districts of north-central Bihar – Samastipur and Muzaffarpur.
A two hour ride through narrow rural roads brought us to a Madrasa (a religious school) where the enlightened village and Madrasa leadership has allowed AKRSP to set up a Microsoft computer training center. In a small room there were about 25 students, mostly girls, clustered around computers and the rest listening to a lecture. I spoke with them to learn more about their background and experience, and how they thought learning computer skills will help them advance. Fatima, a dynamic young lady in a hijab who is studying botany at the local university was very keen to share with me why she and her sister were here. She wants to use the computer to further advance her studies and also wants to study biology. There are no computers at her college and she feels that without this knowledge she will not be able to advance in her work. In this very small village she is connected to young people from around the world through technology – she and her sister both have a Facebook account. All of these students were of the firm belief that with training and skills they can break out of the cycle of endemic poverty.
At the next stop we met with twenty men all of whom had learned how to repair mobile phones. Every one of the young men after completing their course opened a small mobile phone repair shop and each earns between 8-10 thousand Rupees a month, for many this is more than three times their previous income. All of them were able to secure a bank or family loan on the basis of the certificate of completion they had from AKRSP. They all claim to have a brisk business and are especially happy that there are so many phones that need a lot of small repairs. When we spoke about whether they are seeing a growth of the use of computers in the area they all agreed and noted that with computer repair training they would be able to grow their business. The confidence and pride in these young men was very exciting to experience.
Suresh is an amazing story of a young man from the very small village of Muraul of Samastipur soon to be employed at ICICI Bank (one of India’s premier financial institution) as a data entry operator. He will earn 12,000 Rupees a month which for him would have been unheard of just one year ago.
These are just three of many examples of young people who have furthered their economic opportunities through good training, a little fire in the belly and dash of attitude to build their cocktail of success.
Cross posted from the Microsoft on the Issues Blog
By Curt Kolcun Vice President, U.S. Public Sector, Microsoft
Today, I had the honor of representing Microsoft as President Barack Obama discussed the administration’s ongoing commitment to fostering opportunities to help prepare the nation’s veterans for their transition to the civilian workforce.
We applaud the President for continuing to draw attention to this very important issue, supporting veterans, as they move from the military to civilian life, and ensuring they are fully supported and see great success along the way.
Microsoft also understands the need in this area. In response, we will step up our existing efforts. We will expand our Elevate America veterans initiative by partnering with the U.S. Department of Labor to distribute 10,000 technology training and certification packages to veterans. These resources will be provided over a two-year period though the Department of Labor One-Stop Career Centers designed to provide a full range of assistance to job seekers under one roof.
This additional investment in our ongoing program will increase Microsoft’s total commitment to providing training and related job seeking support for veterans to $12 million, all very intentionally designed to help veterans get the technology skills, resources and support they need for a successful transition to civilian life.
Elevate America also complements Microsoft’s focus on supporting veterans through our own hiring practices. We actively hire veterans, and have created a program called Military2Microsoft which assists U.S. veterans and those serving in the National Guard and Reserve to transition and find job opportunities within Microsoft. The Military2Microsoft program incorporates a variety of resources online to make the job search experience easier for military talent.
As a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and a member of the board of the United Service Organizations, these issues resonate and are deeply personal. I am proud to work for a company that is committed to offering solutions to help our veterans.
As a Microsoft employee and employer, I understand the value of these skills and resources, and the important role they play in helping individuals to be successful in today’s workplace. Our servicemen and women are amazing leaders. Through our collective efforts, we are working to enhance their competencies and provide the resources that help veterans see success.
We applaud the other companies who joined with the President today in announcing or extending their support of veterans. We encourage other private-sector companies to consider the role they can play in supporting our veterans as they return to civilian life – whether it is through training, internships, mentorships, hiring or other support. The quality of service that these men and women have provided is unparalleled – and these individuals and our communities will benefit tremendously from this decision to support them.
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