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I love year-ahead forecasts and have looked a number of them from all over the global
IT press. Here’s what the buzz seems to be for 2013 from a nonprofit technology viewpoint.
I guess a good
place to start is looking back at forecasts from January 2012. Andrew Cohen of Forum
One did one called 12
Big Trends in Nonprofit Technology for 2012. His big prediction was that 2012 would be a
breakout year for mobile computing in nonprofit tech.
We certainly covered a bunch of
smartphone developments over the year, including some great Cool App Roundups
like our most recent one for fundraising
apps. We also noticed a significant increase in the way that mobile
technology is being used in disaster relief.
The crystal ball on
mobile computing looks to be an area of dramatically increased use of tablet
computers, and also the convergence of cloud computing services and mobile. More and more nonprofit, library, and NGO offices worldwide will need to accommodate personally-owned tablets
and smartphones on wireless networks in order to work and communicate.
In other words,
it's the "bring-your-own-device" trend in which employees and volunteers supply
their own computing devices. Another term for it is "consumerization of IT." Our internal IT staffs will struggle to
integrate them into organizational email, security, and data collection. This trend
is expected to accelerate. During the last week of December, 1.76 billion mobile apps were downloaded across 20 countries. The only way to integrate tablets and smartphones is
to use cloud services.
As a result of this increased usage by not only staff, but also by consumers in general, nonprofits, libraries, and NGOs will be clamoring to ensure that their online presence is mobile-friendly. While many larger organizations have already done this, smaller nonprofits and libraries, which have had leaner budgets for technology upgrades during the economic recession, will be investing time and money in 2013 into catching up on optimized sites for mobile web browsing.
Libraries and nonprofits that provide public computing access, in particular, will be working to expand broadband bandwidth to their patrons, as more of them come to their local computer lab expecting to access wireless Internet and services through their personal devices.
TechSoup's online community manager, Michael DeLong, also predicts that nonprofits, libraries, and NGOs will increasingly integrate an overall mobile strategy into their work in 2013. Our community team has assembled a great collection of resources for tips on developing apps and optimizing resources. And our Transforming Communities: App It Up program has a wide variety of resources on specific mobile apps already available for nonprofits and libraries and on developing your own app.
Another big trend
in the IT press forecasts is the much heralded decline of the traditional PC – laptops and
desktop computers. The logic of this is that as the bring your own device trend
gains momentum, people will have fewer uses for PCs.
Bank analyst Ben Reitzes forecasts a 6 percent year-over-year decline in the sales of PCs due to
increasing adoption of tablet computers and smartphones. Also, offices are
expected to hold on to their IT equipment longer – which I might add is a good
thing for the environment. Mobile chip sales will overtake
PC revenues in 2013.
I have to say that I’d be surprised if many of us get
rid of PCs entirely in favor of mobile devices just yet. Of course we’ll use mobiles
more and more, but for heads-down work on longer documents, spreadsheets,
presentations, serious data base projects, graphic design, and anything else that
involves looking at a screen for hours at a time and using a proper keyboard –
I’ll be keeping my laptop and will be glad to have it.
"The Internet of
Things" is a bona fide new buzzword and is on most of the IT press forecasts for
2013. I’m not sure how much it will affect nonprofit and library technology, but I just thought I'd put
it on the radar. The Internet of Things (IoT) is
a trend in which every day,
physical objects will be connected to the Internet and will be able to identify
themselves to other devices. This will greatly increase the amount of
data that will be collected on us and our surroundings. One example is a pedometer that someone would wear while walking around all day. Newer ones no longer just count footsteps taken, but also connect that data to the Internet to be logged and monitored as part of a fitness program.
By 2020, Cisco
forecasts that there will be 50
billion things connected to the Internet in this way. Another example of this trend are the smart meters that report the patterns of your electricity
usage to the electric company, but that you can also monitor online. More and more things will have Internet connected sensors, mostly RFID (radio
frequency identification devices).
There are now carpets that dim lights when
nobody is on them, thermostats and security systems that are accessible
via apps for our smartphones, tablets, and web browsers. Most products have had
barcodes on them for years that feed information in to inventory databases and
also collect data on consumer buying habits.
IoT is definitely not a new thing.
Research's Chris Mines has been talking about the Smart Computing Revolution
for some time now. A longer explanation on
this is John Humphreys' recent blog post in Forbes called How
The Internet of Things Will Change Almost Everything.
My TechSoup Global
colleague in Warsaw, Anka Kuliberda, reports that the biggest nonprofit tech story in
Europe this past year were the anti-ACTA riots in several
countries and also the Open Knowledge Festival. Increasingly people there are
demanding transparency and an open-source Internet as a necessary condition of
democratic society in a deepening information age.
In 2012, "Big Data"
became an IT buzzword right up there with cloud computing. It’s actually allied
with The Internet of Things. I expect we'll be hearing a
good deal more about it in 2013. Big data are the vast amounts of information
about us and our environment that are coming in through the internet from our
PCs, mobile phones, tablets, other "things" (as noted above), and ubiquitous cloud services like Google, Amazon,
Facebook, and Twitter.
The world's technological per-capita capacity to store information has
every 40 months since the 1980s. We're entering an age when data analytics
software is just starting to process all this information about us – starting
with our buying habits so online advertisers can perfectly tailor ads to us. The International Data
Corporation (IDC) estimates that just 3 percent of all data is currently tagged
and ready for manipulation, and only
one sixth of this - 0.5% - is used for analysis.
My TechSoup Global
colleague in London, Keisha Taylor, recently posted a piece on what this all
means for NGOs called Thoughts
on Big Data for NGOs from the OECD Technology Foresight Forum. She
essentially finds that big data is a significant opportunity for NGOs to democratize
data and make it public, and also to identify patterns of need. For instance, using combined datasets on health and education for
NGOs and charities could help influence policy decisions, advocacy, and strategic planning for nonprofits. I hope she's right. If you want to go down a level deeper, Keisha recommends O'Reilly Radar's 14 big data trends to watch in 2013. I can only guess what algorithmic censorship in social networks might be, but it's apparently coming our way this year.
On a more nonprofit tech level, TechSoup
Global’s content curator, Ginny Mies predicts that Infographics will gain more traction in 2013. Data visualization, or presenting a picture of complex
information, has been called the new storytelling for nonprofits. There are now
free web tools out there, like visua.ly, info.gram, and Pearltrees
that can help anybody put together an attractive infographic without any special design
skills. Watch for Ginny’s blog about free infographic tools in 2013 to find out
more about this emerging field.
One important finding in TechSoup Global's 2012 global
cloud survey of NGOs was that file storage, data
backup, and disaster recovery are the cloud services that organizations are most
likely to adopt in the near term. That was also one of Forrester's
2013 cloud forecasts as well. TechSoup Global has developed a strategic partnership with the nonprofit Tech Impact and its npCloud project, which hosts a data backup service called npVault to help address this need.
Cloud backup and storage is a technology
that is also very useful in human rights work. An example of this is the superb
open-source freeware database developed by Benetech
called Martus. Martus is a secure information management tool that allows
organizations that document human rights abuses to create a searchable and encrypted
database and back their data up remotely to publicly available servers.
Libraries are also looking more to the cloud to provide integrated library systems (ILSs), according to Marshall Breeding in his The Systems Librarian Tech Review and Forecast for 2013.
The challenge for nonprofit and library technology organizations is to identify the
services and systems like this in a rapidly changing IT field that are suitable and
affordable to NGOs and libraries. We'll be writing much more on this blog and the TechSoup for Libraries blog in 2013.
We sincerely invite your nonprofit or library tech predictions for 2013. Anything I missed? Share in the comments below.
Top Image: NTEN Nonprofit Technology Conference 2012
Infographic: Designed by William Coonan, Web Producer at TechSoup Global
Great summary, Jim, and like you I think that people of 'a certain age' will not be ditching their big screens any time soon ;-) One underlying theme throughout most of these predictions is the privacy landscape and this is something about which I think we are going to have to generate more dialogue with our community and discuss what that means for the nonprofit sector globally.
"I have to say that I’d be surprised if many of us get rid of PCs entirely in favor of mobile devices just yet." I second this. I think that, as usual, the tech prophets aren't thinking about *all* users, just the most tech savvy and wealthy.