eNGO Challenge: Promoting digital outreach and operational efficiencies for the development sectorMadanmohan Rao
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.
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
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.
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