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Online tools to boost NGOs

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Non-governmental organisations across sub-Saharan Africa are set to benefit from the launch of a new set of online tools designed specifically to help them use technology more efficiently and to co-ordinate their resources in finding solutions to common challenges.

NGOConnect Africa, launched at founding sponsor Microsoft SA yesterday, will provide a one-stop shop for technology resources, knowledge-sharing, community-building and real-life examples for non-profit, non-governmental and community-based organisations across the region. It was born from two years of consultation with more than 400 such organisations in South Africa.
"Many NGOs often do not have access to the technologies that can make them more effective, efficient and sustainable in serving those at the margins of modern life," says Dr Cheick Modibo Diarra, Microsoft's chairman for Africa. "Just as technology has improved efficiency and quality in the business world, NGOs can now experience these same benefits, allowing them to use their limited resources for higher value-add activities in achieving their goals."
Kimber Dodge, the executive director of NGOConnect Africa, saiys the initiative is a practical implementation of the eighth Millennium Development Goal (MDG) – that of creating global partnerships for development, a core component being to provide access to information technology.
"Through technology, geographical gaps can be narrowed and relationships can be built between NGOs, the private sector and governments to jointly work on projects, incubate ideas and celebrate successes," she says.
Whether a non-profit group is searching for access to software or interested in networking opportunities with other organisations working on similar projects, NGOConnect Africa offers the resources they need to achieve their goals. It's a virtual workspace that is rich in technology resources, adds Dodge.
"The goal is to help people make the connection between their needs and the ways to solve them using technology," says Dodge. "It's also easy to share best practices and case studies. Through NGOConnect Africa – and in partnership with other NGOs, NGO support organisations, government, private sector and others – issues such as education, youth development, the empowerment of women and sustainable employability can be tackled."
NGOs attending the launch said the portal would increase their understanding about what technology could do for them, including key areas like management of data, attracting online donations, marketing, recruitment of volunteers, streamlining administration and communicating with their beneficiaries. More important was the opportunity to engage and exchange ideas with like-minded organisations in Africa.
John Thole of Edunova says the initiative represented a great opportunity to move forward from thought leadership to implementation.
"NGOConnect Africa can be used as a tool for virtual think tanks, but can also take thoughts to the next level through collaborative programme management online," he says. "We are very excited about this potential application in the education arena."