Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
Two days before Nancy Andrew’s official promotion from Deputy Director to Executive Director of Habitat Choptank, a Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Maryland, the organization’s computer server crashed. “Despite the backups and redundancies built into our system, we faced the possibility that we had lost all of our data,” Andrew remembers.
Habitat Choptank, which serves Dorchester and Talbot Counties, helps qualified families become homeowners. Since 1992, it has completed 54 homes and currently has four homes under construction. The nonprofit has just six full-time and two part-time staff and relies heavily on volunteer labor and financial and material contributions to meet its mission.
Following the server crash, Habitat Choptank went without working computers for several weeks. In addition, Andrew and her staff feared that 19 years of donor information, grants, images and other critical files had vanished for good. “We had multiple system failures,” she says. “That’s never something you want to hear from your tech guy.”
Eventually, all but two months worth of data was restored. But the organization now faced another obstacle: coming up with the funds for a new server and software. “This was an expensive proposition we had not budgeted for,” Andrew says, reliving some of the panic.
Although Habitat Choptank’s office manager subscribed to the TechSoup newsletter, the organization had not kept up with TechSoup’s programs. “Luckily they were still there for us,” says Andrew, who requested a new Microsoft server and software, including Microsoft Office 2010 to upgrade the organization’s six computers.
Although the donations arrived quickly, it took nearly two months before the old files were successfully transferred and the new, “and much faster” server was fully up and running. Andrew says using Office 2010 has made document management, file sharing, and email and print mailings to partners, donors, and volunteers a breeze. Plus, the latest version of Microsoft Publisher has enabled staff to create the majority of its marketing pieces in house, including home dedication invitations. Andrew and staff also took advantage of TechSoup’s Microsoft Office tips and tutorials to get the most out of the donation.
Habitat Choptank aims to get 25 additional families into new homes by 2015. “Receiving Microsoft donations from TechSoup was a huge savings for our nonprofit,” says Andrew. “It has allowed us to keep precious dollars focused on our affordable home-building program and increase homeownership in our community.”
Why don’t you get a software donation for your favorite nonprofit?
Microsoft operates a global nonprofit software donations program to bring the benefits of the latest technology to nonprofits everywhere. If you work for a nonprofit or there is a nonprofit in your community tell them how they can get a software donation from Microsoft.
Kenyan Janet Karani got her first email address a decade ago. It was a way to stay in touch with friends who had moved from Kenya to the United States and was far easier than waiting for the public telephone in a local shopping center—the standard mode for international communication at the time. For Karani, a young college student in a new city, email became a lifeline.
Ten years later, email and a host of other technologies play a central role in Karani’s work as a regional systems administrator for PATH, a Seattle-based global health nonprofit organization. Karani manages all computer and network systems for PATH’s field offices in eastern Africa, supporting about 300 staff. A grant from Microsoft has enabled PATH to standardize its information technology (IT) systems across its 32 field offices so that, from her desk in Nairobi, Kenya, Karani can solve a technology problem in Tanzania, Uganda, or any of the other countries she supports using Exchange and other Microsoft tools.
“It makes it much easier to troubleshoot and get solutions,” Karani says.
Janet Karani manages IT systems for PATH’s offices in eastern Africa. A grant from Microsoft helped PATH standardize its IT systems across its field offices. Photo courtesy of PATH.
Karani is part of PATH’s hub model that puts systems administrators on the same continents and in the same time zones as the offices they support. The model boosts efficiency across the organization, allowing staff to focus on developing and advancing health solutions for the world’s poorest communities. It is widely used in the corporate world but is still catching on among nonprofits, mainly because of the prohibitive cost. Microsoft’s grant makes the model possible for PATH.
From reactive to proactive
Nonprofit organizations make fulfilling their mission their top priority, and technology has to be calibrated to support that mission, explains Pete Tutak, PATH’s associate director of global infrastructure and support. The Microsoft grant and other Microsoft systems management products, such as System Center Operations Manager and System Center Configuration Manager, enable PATH to provide its staff with advanced technology, shift its operational focus from reactive to proactive, stay on top of IT issues, and keep its field staff connected.
For Karani, that means not only can she solve problems remotely, but she can do so in real time—time zone delays between Africa and PATH’s IT staff in Seattle no longer apply. Her proximity and background also help as she works across cultures and office environments.
Karani knows firsthand what it’s like in PATH’s remote sites where Internet connections are unreliable, or nonexistent, as well as how staff are using technology and what challenges they face. “The way things are done in Kenya is not necessarily the way things are done in Tanzania,” she says. Likewise for Ethiopia, Malawi, and Uganda, the other countries she supports. Karani can judge when to delegate problem-solving to another staff member or when to troubleshoot issues herself.
Using technology for HIV services
Part of Karani’s work involves setting up and overseeing the more than 400 laptop and desktop computers PATH has distributed to its staff, partner organizations, and local health centers to help expand care and support services for Kenyans affected by HIV. Loaded with software licensed to PATH through the Microsoft grant, the computers are used to track the health information of HIV-positive patients, the welfare of children orphaned by HIV, and other data.
For example, health workers use Microsoft Access to store patients’ weight, temperature, and CD4 cell count (an indicator of AIDS progression), which enables them to better monitor patients’ health. Within seconds a health worker can pull up a patient’s health history and then determine appropriate treatment and connect the patient with the right services.
The technology helps to strengthen Kenya’s health system, allows health workers and researchers to obtain reliable data, and makes for a much faster transfer of information among staff working in multiple field offices. The impact extends to individuals in the communities where PATH works—resulting in both better care and better awareness.
“The community around where we are setting up these offices is getting exposure to technology,” Karani says. “So people realize, for instance, that it’s important to go to school, it’s important to take care of themselves health-wise.”
In Kenya, local health centers use computers from PATH loaded with Microsoft software to track health records of Kenyans affected by HIV. Photo credit: PATH/Evelyn Hockstein
Expanding the field
Karani is doing her own part to expose more people, especially women, to IT. She helped launch a mentoring program at her alma mater to encourage girls to consider entering the male-dominated industry, and she sits on the steering committee for a new program through NetHope—an IT group for international humanitarian organizations—to recruit more women to the IT field.
As technology progresses and becomes more attainable for nonprofits, Karani and others are seeing the myriad ways IT advances the mission of PATH. Just as Karani’s first email address connected her to friends across the world, PATH’s technology backbone links communities in Africa and around the world to better health and hopeful futures.
PATH is an international nonprofit organization that transforms global health through innovation. PATH takes an entrepreneurial approach to developing and delivering high-impact, low-cost solutions, from lifesaving vaccines and devices to collaborative programs with communities. Through its work in more than 70 countries, PATH and its partners empower people to achieve their full potential.
For more information, please visit www.path.org.
A couple of weeks ago we announced the results of the 2011 Microsoft employee giving campaign. Employees in the United States donated over $100 million, with corporate match, to nonprofits during the year. One of the most common questions we get from nonprofit organizations (possibly second only to how can I avail of software donations) is how does the Microsoft’s employee giving program work and how can I get involved?
To help address that very question, we hosted a session called “Maximize the Match”. It provides you with information about our employee programs and provides best practice examples from nonprofits who have been successful raising funds with employees in the past.
You can watch the full recording of the session here. You can also download a copy of the presentation here.
Since 1968, Concern Worldwide has been working with the poorest people in the poorest countries of the world to enable them to transform their lives.
Today, Concern is one of the world’s largest humanitarian NGOs, with almost 4,000 staff working in nearly 30 countries in Africa, Asia and Central America. In keeping with its mission of helping poor people to achieve long-lasting improvements in their lives, Concern’s field programs focus on food security, education, primary healthcare, livelihoods, and disaster risk reduction as well as emergency response.
Technology plays an indispensable role in ensuring that Concern’s field programs provide sustainable benefits to local communities. “We view technology as a strategic asset,” according to Vincent Richardson, chief information officer at Concern. “It’s obviously crucial for our back office systems and our ability to keep operating in the most difficult situations. We’re also embedding technology in our field operations, both to deliver programs and to put technology into people’s hands so they can use it to improve their lives and livelihoods. This is at the heart of achieving sustainable change for the world’s poorest people.”
Concern faces the same operational requirements for reporting, collaboration, management and communication as any large global organization, with the added challenge of operating in communities which often have limited infrastructure.
So how do they keep things up and running? They are using Microsoft Office 365 to support their incredible work around the world. Here’s how they’re using it.
You can find out more about Concern’s work here and why not support their work by visiting their donations page.
Today there are nearly 7,000 languages spoken around the world and scientists estimate that three languages become extinct every month and over half of all languages are in danger of becoming extinct before the end of this century. Just think of the knowledge and history that’s lost when a language dies. Today is UNESCO's International Mother Language Day and a great time to celebrate the importance of language to everyone around the world.
There are many economic and cultural reasons why so many languages are at risk of extinction. However, with the ubiquity of computers in our lives, one element that can help preserve language is technology. At Microsoft we’ve committed to enable as many people as possible to work, communicate and collaborate using their native language through our Local Language Program.
While software is localized for the major world languages if you live in a smaller community you are often forced to use technology in a foreign language, adding yet another hurdle to protecting and developing your native tongue. Take Spain as an example. More than 74 percent of the country’s 47 million citizens speak Castilian Spanish, but 26 percent speak Valencian, Basque, Catalan or Galician. Through the technology of Local Interface Packs (LIPS) and Caption Language Interface Packs (CLIPS), which are part of the Microsoft Local Language Program, native speakers of Valencian, Basque, Catalan and Galician can now use technology such as Windows and Office on their own terms.
Today Microsoft offers Windows and Office in nearly 100 languages, reaching more than 90 percent of the global population.
In addition to providing these Local Language Packs, we also provide online dictionaries, translation tools and localized versions of our developer tools.
Ultimately these tools and resources help support language preservation and translation, which can lead to better economic opportunities through giving more people access to technology in their own language.
On International Mother Language Day it’s a good time to celebrate the wonderful diversity around our planet and recognize the importance those languages play in our culture and diversity. You can find a whole set of resources and download instructions for Local Language Packs at the Local Language Program website.
Some of the languages supported today by the Local Language Program.
Azerbaijani (Latin) <Azərbaycan>
Bangla (Bangladesh) <বাংলা (বাংলাদেশ)>
Bengali (India) <বাংলা (ভারত)>
Bosnian (Cyrillic) <босански>
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnian (Latin) <Bosanski>
Chinese Simplified <简体中文>
Chinese Traditional <繁體中文>
Indonesian <Bahasa Indonesia>
Macedonia, Fmr Yugoslav Republic of
Malay (Brunei Darussalam) <Bahasa Melayu (Brunei Darussalam)>
Malay (Malaysia) <Bahasa Melayu (Malaysia)>
Maori <Reo Māori>
Mongolian (Cyrillic) <Монгол хэл>
Norwegian (Nynorsk) <Norsk (Nynorsk)>
Portuguese Brazil <Português (Brasil)>
Punjabi (Gurmukhi, India) <ਪੰਜਾਬੀ>
Scottish Gaelic <Gàidhlig>
Serbian (Cyrillic) <Српски>
Serbian (Latin) <Srpski>
Sesotho sa Leboa
Uzbek (Latin) <O’zbekcha>
Vietnamese <Tiếng Việt>
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