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eNGO Challenge: Promoting digital outreach and operational efficiencies for the development sector

Madanmohan Rao
posted on 21st December 2013
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Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) representing the development or social sector have emerged as a key pillar of inclusive growth and development across societies, particularly for empowerment in rural communities. Globally, there are estimated to be more than 10 million NGOs, five million in South Asia and three million in India.

Picture courtesy: http://www.engochallenge.org/
Picture courtesy: http://www.engochallenge.org/

Digital media like the web and mobiles can be harnessed in multiple ways for external outreach and internal efficiencies. The annual eNGO Challenge awards social entrepreneurs for digital excellence in five such categories: Communication and Outreach; Social Commerce; Advocacy; Organisational Efficiency; and Sustainable Development.

The awards are part of the eNGO Network programme (http://pirengo.org), a joint initiative of the Public Internet Registry and Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF). Since 2011, the network has connected with more than 5,000 NGOs in India, South Asia and Africa to develop their Web identities and e-workflow.

Launched in 2012, the eNGO Challenge (www.engochallenge.org) received 163 nominations in 2012 and 340 in 2013, according to Syed S. Kazi, policy director at the Digital Empowerment Foundation. The national distribution of nominations in 2013 was: Afghanistan (12), Bangladesh (12), Bhutan (10), India (244), Maldives (13), Nepal (12), Pakistan (21), and Sri Lanka (13).

“The Public Interest Registry, the not-for-profit operator of the .ORG domain, delivers a trusted address for people and organisations to tell their stories and mobilise their supporters in the online world,” says Brian Cute, CEO, Public Interest Registry. NGOs today can leverage the amazing power of the web to further their own agendas. “Using the web, we have seen a number of civil society organisations empower their stake holders without access to large sums of money or numbers of volunteers. The electronic medium is one where marginal costs of seeing information is close to zero and so is the cost of sending it across the world,” observes Amir Ullah Khan, President, Glocal University.

The internet allows for small groups of people, including marginalised and handicapped communities, to gain access to markets, educational portals, e-commerce sites, and e-health platforms. “Many NGOs are exploring ways in which cutting-edge technology such as cloud computing can help directly in solving development challenges,” according to Manju Dhasmana, Lead – Community Affairs/Corporate, Social Responsibility, Microsoft India. She cites Akshay Patra as an example, which started off with emails and collaboration tools and has now progressed to cloud platforms for their operations in serving more children with fresh mid-day meals.

Finalists of the eNGO Challenge, 2013

AdvocacyUse of media to advocate issues of wider civil society, development and governance concerns

1. Babul Films Society www.babulfilms.in2. Youth for Social Development www.ysdindia.org3. Grassroots Research and Advocacy Movement www.graam.org.in

Communication & OutreachPublicising activities; attracting and retaining traffic to the web site and social media

1. Indian Centre For Development and Rights-ICFDR www.icfdr.org2. Front for Rapid Economic Advancement of India www.standupagainstviolence.org3. Equal Access Nepal www.equalaccess.org.np

Organisational EfficiencyImproved operations through reduced costs, time saving, better office and team management

1. Vidya Poshak www.vidyaposhak.org2. Journey www.journey.org.mv3. El Shaddai Charitable Trust www.elshaddaigoa.org

Social CommerceProducing and marketing local products in a social enterprise model

1. SAFA www.safaindia.org2. Bhumi www.bhumi.org.in3. KLink Foundation www.klink.co.in

4. Razia Ray of Hope Foundation www.raziasrayofhope.org

5. WF Pakistan www.wwfpak.org

Sustainable DevelopmentSustainability in the local community across social, economic and environmental parameters

1. Earth Care Designs www.earthcaredesigns.org2. Northeast Centre for Environmental Education and Research www.neceer.org.in3. Organisation for Research and Community Development www.orcd.org.af

4. Volunteer Nepal National Group www.volnepal.org

The jurors for the eNGO Challenge 2013 included Amir Ullah Khan, President, Glocal University; Ravina Aggarwal, Programme Officer-Media Rights & Access, Ford Foundation; Amitabh Singhal, Board Member, PIR.ORG; Rajen Varada, Founder, Technology For The People; Hempal Shrestha, Practitioner, ICT For Education and Social Development; Manju Dhasmana, Lead – Community Affairs/Corporate, Social Responsibility, Microsoft India; and Pranshu Singhal, Head, Sustainability at Nokia India.

Many NGOs, however, express challenges in terms of ICT management capacity and other digital skills, and in funding access to digital tools, according to Amitabh Singhal, board director at PIR. Hence the eNGO Network programme has rolled out a range of workshops, networking activities and services for registering domain names and harnessing the Net.

[ Follow Yourstory.com’s research director Madanmohan Rao on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MadanRao ]

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