Wireless Technology for Social Change: Trends in NGO Mobile Use

This report by the UN Foundation examines real life examples of and trends in wireless technology solutions being used to drive change in the areas of health, humanitarian assistance, and environmental conservation. Largely using case studies, the authors find that NGOs’ use of mobile technology is very widespread and indispensable.

While voice and text messaging are still the most common applications of mobile technology among NGO workers, the authors find widespread use of wireless technology in a number of other ways, including photo and video, data collection or transfer, and multi-media messaging, as well as for more sophisticated purposes such as data analysis, inventory management, and mapping. The authors find that key benefits of mobile technology for all NGOs include time savings; the ability to quickly mobilise or organise individuals; reaching audiences that were previously difficult or impossible to reach; the ability to transmit data more quickly and accurately; and the ability to gather data more quickly and accurately.

The authors conclude that mobile technology is currently widespread and is poised to remain so for the foreseeable future, as evidenced by 76 percent of NGO users who say they would likely increase their use of mobile technology in the future since it would be difficult to do their jobs without it. Also, the compelling stories portrayed in this report demonstrate that telecommunications can be a powerful tool for positive change.

Authors: Sheila K; Katrin V
Publisher: United Nations Foundation, 2008

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