Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are a market sector often sidelined by the IT industry, although recent research has demonstrated that it is a viable market sector. A conference this month will explore where the industry could be getting more involved with this sector. 

The Southern African NGO Network (SANGONeT) will host its third annual "ICTs for Civil Society" Conference and Exhibition from 17-18 July 2007 at the
Wanderers Club in Illovo, Johannesburg. The theme of the 2007 event is "Applications for the Development Sector".
The conference will coincide with SANGONeT's twentieth anniversary celebrations, and will reflect on the progress that South African non-governmental organisation (NGOs) have made over the past 20 years in adopting and integrating ICTs in their work.
David Barnard, SANGONeT's executive director, comments: "Although many South African NGOs are already active users of ICTs, much more needs to be done to build the capacity of the sector. The introduction and integration of ICTs represents huge opportunities, as well as challenges, in the process of transforming and strengthening the South African NGO sector."
Although NGOs are at the forefront of the fight against poverty and inequality, very little attention is given to their ability to use, manage and integrate ICTs as part of their activities. Without a significant change in the status of the current ICT situation in the sector, the potential impact of ICTs on the work of South African NGOs will continue to be limited.
One of the highlights of the event will be the release of the "State of ICTs in the South African NGO Sector" research report. The finding of this sur vey that was conducted by World Wide Worx will be released during the opening of the conference on 17 July 2007.
"We hope the findings will inspire ICT companies to take a more active interest in the NGO sector as a market for their products and services, as well as assist funding agencies in making informed decisions about ICT investments in the NGO sector," says Barnard.
The overall objective of the conference is to expose civil society participants to a wide range of ICT issues, and to empower them with information and skills to strengthen their understanding of the role and relevance of ICTs in support of their work, as well as their participation in ICT-related policy and advocacy processes.
The SANGONeT conference will bring together a large number of NGOs, as well as development stakeholders who work with these organisations, including international funding agencies, the private sector, parastatals and government to discuss and debate a wide range of ICT topics and issues relevant to the work of the NGO sector.
The conference will showcase specific ICT experiences and expertise of local NGOs, thus creating an environment for peer-learning and support. The conference programme will focus on various strategic ICT issues relevant to the work of the NGO sector, including online fundraising, monitoring and evaluation, building
online communities, open source migration, open content, mobile applications, constituent and business management systems for NGOs, ICTs and HIV/AIDS, ICT procurement and community access to ICTs.
As part of its overall strategic objective to increase NGOs' awareness of the importance of their websites and communications in the online environment, SANGONeT coordinated the "South African NGO Website Awards 2007" in parallel with the preparations for the conference. In total, 46
NGOs submitted their websites as entries in this competition.
There are 10 NGO websites short-listed:
* Afesis-Corplan www.afesis.org.za
* Agenda Feminist Media www.agenda.org.za
* Art Market Online www.artmarketonline.co.za
* Border Rural Committee www.brc21.co.za
* Children of the Dawn www.childrenofthedawn.org.za
* Fair Trade in Tourism www.fairtourismsa.org.za
* Heifer-South Africa www.heifer.org.za
* South African Council for the Blind www.sancb.org.za
* The Association for the Aged (TAFTA) www.tafta.org.za
* The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa www.heartfoundation.co.za