Italy has more than 3,500 organizations dealing with international cooperation and solidarity, according to the latest survey of nonprofits by ISTAT. How many of them use information and communication technologies (ICT) in their work, be it in Italy or abroad? With a bit of ambition, I will try to provide you this information.
By Serena Carta, from ICT4dev
Starting the past October, and lasting up to March 2015, I am and will be engaged in a research whose title is long, but clear enough to understand its aim, i.e. “Integrating information and communication technologies in international cooperation projects. Building the know-how for the strategic and sustainable use of ICT4D by Italian NGOs “. The study is co-funded by Volunteers for Development, the Gori Foundation and the CRT Foundation under the umbrella of the Master of the talents of civil society.
My intent is twofold. For one, I aim at building a knowledge base which helps define the ICT4D field, by identifying its tools and most significant projects, and analyzing their limits and possible outcomes. For two, I aim at showing some light to the degree of familiarity with these technologies Italian NGOs have, despite its increasing use in international cooperation projects. The results of my study will be both a “Toolbox” – available to local NGOs who want to employ the ICT4D in their work – and a map of what Italian NGOs have already done.
In order to get this done, I’ll move to Stockholm for 3 months. I will study the ICT4D at the Spider center. Next, I will fly to Amsterdam to understand how the Akvo team creates and uses open source software for the web and mobile phones in the global South. I will ask the Italian NGOs to help me answer a few questions: how do you use ICT4D? Who uses them and for what purpose? What are the main difficulties you encountered and what results did you accomplish?
Early food for thought
The THINK! Foundation, along with Computer Scientists without Borders and the Department of computer science and Communication Systems of the Università degli studi di Milano Bicocca, give us an idea of the spread of the technology in the Italian nonprofit world. In 2012, they stated “technology is poorly spread, curiosity is missing ” (“third sector report: beyond the digital divide”). According to THINK!, the factors behind said lack of interest are: a cultural attitude of distraction and inattentiveness, the average age of third sector executives (too high), insufficient funding, and lack of interest from third parties to develop technologies for non-profits.
The trend of indifference toward technology would be worth changing, if only to keep up with the times. According to OCHA, there were 6 billion worldwide subscriptions to mobile phones in 2012. Of these, 1 billion involves smartphones, “whose capacity for calculation is considered more powerful than instruments used by NASA to send humans to the Moon” (Humanitarianism in the network Age, OCHA, 2013).
We will see if my research work on ICT4D, in Italy and abroad, and my updates here on the pages of Vps will make a dent on the supposed gap between nonprofits and technology. Particularly, we shall see if I will contribute in any way, shape or form to the transformation of NGOs into “NGO 2.0, the new generation of NGOs is increasingly creative, flexible and willing to change, and discover new dimensions of cooperation, where others see only crisis” (cit. SilviaPochettino in “cooperation is dead, long live cooperation“).