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2013 was the year of an ever-widening NSA
spying scandal with its revelations of how little digital privacy we really
have – even heads of state. The big
nonprofit tech trends this past year seemed to be in the areas of the emergence
of mobile devices, social media stratification, the launch of Office 365 for Nonprofits, some huge digital
inclusion initiatives, and lots of other things. Here’s what it all looked like to me.
Tablet sales are up
53% while laptop and desktop computers are down 11% from
the previous year. In terms of sheer numbers, over 300 million PCs were sold
while 184 million tablets were sold. What this means? PCs aren’t going away,
but mobile devices (phones and tablets) are flooding in to the nonprofit
workplace. It’s time to develop a BYOD
(bring your own device) strategy for your office if you don’t already have
one. That basically entails figuring out how to allow staff and volunteers to
get work email, documents and other data on their own mobile devices – and what
to do when phones and tablets get lost or stolen. There are remedies. For instance, this past year Google released a web-based Device Manager that
allows you to locate, ring at full volume, and wipe data from an Android
The much-heralded wearable
computing era arrived with a crop of smartwatches during 2013.
Manufacturers like Samsung, Google, Apple, Sony, and many more were hoping this would be the next big thing in mobile technology. Unfortunately smartwatches are not
quite taking off yet, because like most folks, I don’t quite see the use of
them except to function of as a companion to our smartphones – an at-a-glance
device on our wrist to see our appointment reminders, who is contacting us,
check our pulse rate, and, uh, to see what time it is. They save us the arduous
task of taking our phones out of our pockets to look at them.
In hardware life extension news,
award winner for software in Popular
Science's Best of What's New 2013 this year is a server/software technology called Neverware Juicebox.
This virtual desktop solution connects to a nonprofit or school’s existing
computer system very quickly and allows older computers to run Windows 7 and
Windows applications as well as new PCs. Neverware’s pricing is a subscription model – monthly per
PC fee. This new technology has become available in time to help public schools
in the U.S. gear up to administer standardized tests digitally next year.
Almost more than
any topic, how to harness social media has once again dominated nonprofit
technology this past year. Social media is
now officially the
most common thing we do online. It’s also looking like relatively few charities and also libraries are getting
the hang of it. A 2013 survey from The Millennial Impact
finds that charities aren’t effectively engaging younger donors via mobile
friendly channels like social media and mobile optimized websites. We’re also continuing to see lots of articles
like The Guardians’ “How
charities can make better use of social media.”
This past year
some patterns of social media use have emerged. Fast
Company reports that the fastest growing age group using Facebook and
Google+ are people over 45. Younger people who are the most deeply engaged
demographic on social media are likely to also use services like YouTube and
also Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram. Reddit
is another one I’m watching. Ypulse
has done a graph on these millennial social media patterns and they’re
complicated. No wonder we’re confused! Social Misfits Media and Aegis
Media in the UK have just launched a new free online social media guide for charities to help relieve our
Office 365 for Nonprofits just became available to charities around the
world at no cost in 2013. Office 365 is basically a full-featured online
version of Microsoft Office that includes Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook,
PowerPoint, OneNote, Publisher, and Access. It also has back-end tools
including hosted Exchange (email), SharePoint (file serving), and Lync
(messaging and conferencing). It allows charities to get to your applications
and files from virtually anywhere there is Internet on many kinds of devices - PCs,
Macs, and mobile devices of various kinds. Charities can request Office 365 directly from Microsoft.
TechSoup offers a
Office 365 Assessment from our cloud partner, Tech Impact. I like their new free
Computing for Nonprofits. It’s a plain English primer on what cloud
computing is and how it benefits nonprofit organizations. I’d also modestly
recommend our Cloud
Basics for Nonprofits and Libraries.
Adobe Creative Cloud launched this year
as well. It’s a new licensing arrangement in which Adobe products users
download the software as they have in the past and use it on PCs, but licensing
is on a monthly per-user fee basis. Adobe Creative Cloud also provides online
storage and collaboration web services, which includes a new Sync Settings
feature that maintains your preference setting across multiple computers. We
expect that Creative Cloud for Nonprofits will launch in early to mid 2014.
This is on a
personal computing level. Another cloud story that has caught my attention this
year are the welcome escalations of free cloud storage. According TechSoup’s
Global NGO Cloud Survey, cloud storage and back-up is one of the most
useful cloud technologies out there. It’s one of the cloud services I use most.
Here are the latest standings:
If you’re like me and particularly like services that
offer a Dropbox style local folder on your
device which is mirrored in the cloud, those include: MediaFire, Copy.com,
and Microsoft SkyDrive. I’m
told that Copy.com has unusually
good security. I’m hoping the competition
for free cloud storage will keep going next year.
if you're looking for cloud storage that several people in your organization can share, you might check out TechSoup Global partner, Citrix' discounted ShareFile offer. It provides 10 GB of storage for up to 10 users for $10 per year. Sharefile has privacy features strong enough to make it HIPAA compliant for confidential medical records.
time. Like my colleague Jane
Zhang at TechSoup Canada, I pegged the Internet of Things (IoT) as something
to watch this year. The mainstream IT press was alive with the topic. MIT
Technology Review declared 2013 the year of the Internet of Things. It’s a longer-term trend. It’s the cybernetic field in which everyday, physical
objects are connected through the Internet to each other. These sentient things
combine to generate vast oceans of data about us, which is in turn consolidated
into big data in the cloud.
This all entails putting
circuit boards and sensors in lots of things that are not PCs, tablets or
phones. I envision a time when all garbage is e-waste. It’s your car watching
your every move to make your travel safe and efficient; it’s cameras on traffic
lights and road-bed sensors watching your car’s every move to see that it obeys
the laws. It’s a bunch of things in your house and office that are connected to
the smart grid and anticipating your moods and habits while saving energy. It
is biometric censors embedded in livestock to report on their heath, and probably
biometric sensors on or in you for the same purpose. It is TechSoup donor
partner, Cisco’s ‘planetary skin’ that monitors trillions of sensors on, above,
and below the earth to plot environmental changes.
What on earth does this have to do with
nonprofit technology? I confess it may be a bit limited to us nonprofit
technology geeks who just like innovation, but I think also to the protection
of human rights. I see the grand wave of IoT and Big Data combining to generate
the copyright issue for the ages. As our digital selves develop in to
significant mirror presences, someone else will probably own them. The
controversy in 2013 about NSA spying and digital privacy rights is but a
harbinger of things to come. Data, we are told, is indeed becoming
the new oil. For a more
down-to-earth view of big data, check out my What
Does Big Data Have to Do With Me and My Organization?
This years’ Nobel Prize for Peace was
awarded to the technology oriented Dutch NGO, Organisation
for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. That makes them the
official NPTech organization of the year, but we found some pretty outstanding
work going on among others as well. The Kansas City Library is launching a software
lending library so that low-income people can learn to use expensive
full-featured applications at no cost. The nonprofit refurbisher. Capital
Area Corporate Recycling Council was recognized for their great disaster
relief work and their leadership in teching up schools in southern Louisiana. MyDigitalBridge
in Namibia is showing the way for providing Internet access in Africa. Ushahidi
in Kenya has developed a device called a BRCK that addresses frequent
Internet and electricity outages in much of the developing world. The list goes
on and on.
Finally, 2013 was a big year for digital inclusion. Three
major programs launched this year.
Alliance For Affordable Internet was the latest big global digital
inclusion project to launch this year to find new ways to bring affordable
Internet to low-income people. TechSoup donor partners, Microsoft and Cisco are
teaming up with Google, and a host of
additional charities and tech companies to launch the initiative. The
Alliance For Affordable Internet aims to reduce the cost of Internet in poor
regions of the world to less than 5 percent of income through policy and
Facebook’s Internet.org launched just before the Alliance For Affordable Internet and with much
more public skepticism. It aims to develop very low-cost Internet on mobile
phones for low-income people around the world. The project is controversial in
that it will grow Facebook’s user base. It’s a pretty complex project mainly in
cooperation with the mobile handset makers. Find my piece, “Will
Facebook’s Internet.org Bridge the Global Digital Divide?” that explains in
more detail how Internet.org aims to lower barriers to Internet access.
this past spring. It
is the biggest digital inclusion project in the U.S. It is aggregating all
the various digital inclusion projects in the country and also working on big
national deals with telecom companies for reduced rate broadband Internet.
Oh! Last but not least, this was also the year that TechSoup partnered with the British newspaper, The Guardian, to co-publish an
in-depth Technology for
Good report showcasing innovative uses of technology for social
Anything I missed? Please log in to comment on this blog
Images: TechSoup,and Shutterstock
What I would love to know: in 2013, did more nonprofits raise more, additional money online, via their own web sites as well as via social media, and reach different, new donors? Or is the hype about online fundraising not matched by reality.
Based on researching virtual volunteering, including online micro volunteering, both for a book to be published later this month and for the European Union, I'd say that the number of nonprofits involving online volunteers, and using the Internet to support and involve volunteers, continues to rise. Unfortunately, the organizations that gather volunteer stats still don't explore online volunteering, and even if they started, it would be hard to have stats to show trends, per the lack of research.
And what I would love to know as well - how are these trends affecting people's jobs at nonprofit organizations? How is it affecting marketing managers, fundraisers, managers of volunteers, those that work with clients, etc.?