The place for nonprofits, charities, and libraries

Nonprofit Technology News for May 2013: Free WiFi in Forbes Magazine and Braille Phones

Nonprofit Technology News for May 2013: Free WiFi in Forbes Magazine and Braille Phones

  • Comments 1

GreenTech logoI posted some nonprofit technology trends and news late last month, but found some late breaking nptech news items I wanted to add. This month the news is about WiFi embedded in a magazine, Braille smartphones, ultramobile devices, innovation in Eastern Europe, Windows 8 Apps for Social Good Winners, a new Pinterest analytics tool, the emergence of digital wallets, and Ginny Mies pick for the mobile app of the month.

Strange News

The IT press was buzzing in late April about the free portable WiFi embedded by Microsoft in select May 6 Forbes Magazine print issues. Yes that's right. Microsoft has placed an Office 365 promotional ad in Forbes that turns the magazine in to a free T-Mobile WiFi hotspot for 15 days.

It's apparently a real WiFi router that will connect as many as five devices. It's mind boggling how something like this could be harnessed for digital inclusion and social sector organizations. Available on news stands now, so check one out if you see a new issue while in line at the grocery store.


This is technology for good news from India. Mashable reports that the world's first mobile phone specifically designed for sight-impaired people is under development. It will be a Braille phone and it is due to come out the end of this year at an affordable price ($185).

The phone is a project of Sumit Dagar and the Indian Institute of Technology. The device will have a touch screen with a grid of pins that form Braille characters based on SMS or email messages.


Gartner just came out with a pretty set of interesting predictions on the hardware market through 2017. It's not "news" that the traditional PC market is predicted to continue its decline (7.6 percent) as we transition to using more tablets and mobile devices.

The report also talks about a new growing form factor called "ultramobiles." These are lightweight (one-to-two pound), full-function mobile devices, typically with keyboards and trackpads. They will be powered by the same operating systems used on desktops and laptop PCs – mostly Windows and Mac OS. Microsoft's new Surface Pro is an example of this type of new type of device. I'm just wondering how they're different from today's PCs?

NPTech Innovation in Eastern Europe

Fundacja TechSoup in Poland, in a close partnership with Dokukino and other local organizations from the Western Balkans, has launched open challenges for the best technology-based social projects that address transparency and accountability issues in the the Bosnia and Hercegovina, Kosovo, and Serbia.

The ideas submission process started last week and will be followed by online conversations, online community voting, jury voting, and a hackathons for the best projects in each of the countries. This is similar to the success of projects like Restart Romania in which social activists got help to develop online tools to address corruption in high places, and also a national website for tracking medication shortages in Romania.

And The Windows 8 Apps for Social Good Winners Are…

In November Microsoft launched the first Windows 8 Apps for Social Good contest. The project invited developers to create apps for social good in several categories including nutrition, health care, emergency response, and more. The contest was a success in that judges had a hard time selecting the winners because of the quality and usefulness of the apps. Find the winning apps and the array of entries on the contest page.

  • The People's Choice award winner is a Windows 8 app, YumvY, a cooking companion to help you prepare nutritious, healthy meals at home with the goal of addressing the obesity epidemic and related diseases like diabetes.
  • The judge-selected winner is Eatfindr, a simple way to locate healthy restaurants while also allowing you to filter based on dietary requirements such as allergies.
  • Health Center was another judge-selected winner. It lets you look up your medications and find them at a reduced cost.

Congratulations to the winning app developers and all those who participated in creating apps for positive change.

NPTech Online Fundraising Trends

The annual 2013 eNonprofit Benchmark Study by NTEN and M+R Strategic Services is now out. It's a 40-page study that measures what's going on with nonprofit email, fundraising, social media, and mobile. It's a free download at

Here are some key findings:

  • Email list sizes are up by 15 percent
  • Online revenue grew by 21 percent since 2011
  • Monthly giving programs in particular have seen explosive growth, with revenue growing by 43 percent
  • Twitter followers increased dramatically, with 264 percent growth over the past year
  • Now the bad news: the international NGO sector saw a decline in online giving

Find a summary of the report by Chronicle of Philanthropy's Nicole Wallace.

Social Media

Pinterest is a social media photo-sharing website that allows users to create online image collections around specific events or subjects. For instance, users can pin images for planning a conference, celebrating volunteers, or encourage their supporters to pin images related to a topic for social change. The images are called pins and collections are called boards. Users are encouraged to share and "like" pins. They can "repin" things that they like on their own Pinterest page.

You can also link a Pinterest account to a Facebook or Twitter profile. It's a very useful tool for charities who want to amplify their social media presence and share ideas through images.

Pinterest has now developed a Google Analytics type free tool that allows you to track the number of pinners and pins from your site, and in turn the number of repinners and repins of your images from all over Pinterest. It basically tells you at a glance how popular your image collections (boards) are.

Digital WalletsMobile money

The IT press has been covering lots new developments lately in paying by mobile phone. Of course mobile phone payments are not new. African countries are the primary users of mobile banking and a hotbed of innovation in this field like the Safaricom M-PESA mobile payment system in Kenya. The social good impact of this field to encourage wealth distribution in Africa is immense.

Mobile payments are arriving quickly in the rest of the world and will change the way we pay and collect payments. Services like Google Wallet, Square, Intuit Pay, and PayPal Mobile Payments are some of the big name services that are emerging. I could go on and on about this one so I'll just tell you what I've been reading on the topic:

TechSoup has three donor partners in this technology area if you'd like to try out a new mobile payment collection service:

  • The Dharma Merchant Services donation program provides discounted pricing of services and equipment for credit/debit card payment processing.
  • The PayAnywhere donation program at TechSoup provides mobile and Internet-based payment processing services. It allows you to use PayAnywhere's mobile app and credit card reader to process credit and debit card transactions.
  • Sage Payment Processing offers mobile credit card readers and online payment processing services at special discount rates for nonprofits and libraries.

Ginny's Pick: Environmental Mobile App of the Month in Honor of Earth Day 2013

Ginny Mies is a former journalist and former senior editor at PC World Magazine and now TechSoup Global's content curator. I'll just quote her:

"I picked this one because it is cross-platform, up-to-date, and provides a very handy service."

With PaperKarma (Android, iPhone, Windows Phone), annoying junk mail doesn't stand a chance. Using this free app, you can take a photo of the junk mail you want to get rid of and PaperKarma will do the rest of the dirty work. The app uses its database to find out the source of the mail and will contact the sender to remove you from its distribution list. 

Very, very cool, I must say.

We sincerely invite your nonprofit or library tech news nominations. Anything I missed? Share in the comments below.

Image: Digital Wallet, Shutterstock

  • You didn't mention the major announcement from Adobe that they will abandon selling/supporting stand-alone suites and apps. This move will have a huge negative impact on small to midsized organizations, especially those in the non-profit community. Without deeply discounted Creative Cloud subscriptions, many of us will be forced to purchase, learn, and use inferior creative software. For those responsible for getting our organizations' message out, it's very big, and very unsetteling, news. V.Veerkamp