April 22, 2014

Mobility: We Cannot Afford Not to Take Advantage of It

Mobile technology has revolutionized the means of communication. Today, nobody can afford not to use it. In particular, this applies to NGOs. This is why it is so important to be aware of opportunities associated with mobile technologies and promotion of good practices, such as the conference to be held in Warsaw in May, Sektor 3.0.

Mobility. Revolution or everyday life?

When I travel through Warsaw, Poland everyday on my way to the office, by bus or by subway, I see more and more people preoccupied with their smartphones and tablets. A printed newspaper is becoming a rare sight. Like the traditional cell phones which we used until quite recently to send text messages and make hundreds of morning calls, mobile devices of all kinds and types have become as much of a necessity as a toothbrush. Everyday, we use hundreds of applications for communication, banking services, and entertainment. The inflow of new software for smartphones is so overwhelming that it’s difficult to track, or to use for that matter.

You say this is obvious? You say the mobile revolution is something normal to you? It’s true – the mobile revolution is no longer a revolution; for a long time it has been a part of our everyday lives. This is why I find it surprising that only a small percentage of Polish organizations of the third sector have included the use of mobile applications and devices in their strategies.

Why is this? A short questionnaire distributed among partner NGOs has indicated two possible reasons for this situation. First of all, NGOs lack awareness of the benefits associated with the use of mobility; secondly, we haven’t figured out how to implement the practical solutions, allowing us to take advantage of this mobility. Therefore, I’m waiting very impatiently for Sektor 3.0 to take place, which is to be dedicated fully to issues of mobility this year.

We cannot afford to give up mobility

I’m fully convinced that the selection of mobility as the main theme of the Sektor 3.0 conference is right. According to the to TNS Polska Mobile Life 2013 survey, about 31% of Poland’s population use mobile devices, such as smartphones. Initial data from 2014 TNS Polska surveys show 44% of people use mobile devices everyday to pay their bills, read mail and websites, and to communicate. According to forecasts, an estimated 60% of Poland’s population will be using smartphones in 2015. Fast Internet over the phone is no longer a luxury. Therefore, third sector organizations simply cannot afford to give up the opportunities offered by mobility. So, how do we take advantage of it?

The simplest way seems to be to use mobile devices for internal purposes of the organization; for instance, to improve the way an organization functions. I won’t list specific applications here. It’s sufficient to indicate such fields as project management, time management, or communication. Many solutions have been described very thoroughly, and it takes very little effort to find them.  Application of a single software solution for all employees may allow for coordination and substantial acceleration of work in the organization. This is particularly true in Poland, where a significant percentage of organizations operate on the local scale with a dispersed membership.

Use of mobile communication or task management applications under such circumstances exerts significant impact on their effectiveness. Therefore, awareness of the potential of individual applications is much more significant than familiarity with specific solutions. Taking into account how many people use mobile devices and how quickly the numbers of tablet or smartphone users are growing, the capability of NGOs to take advantage of this potential seems to be a necessity. In this case, mobile devices can be used not only to improve the internal functioning of the organization, but also to ensure more effective communication or promotion among the present and potential audience.

Once again, we should ask ourselves how to take advantage of these opportunities. The first thing we can do is to perform an audit of the web page or blog of the organization to check whether it’s friendly for mobile devices. If not, we should consider its adaptation. In the case of WordPress-based pages or blogs, the problem seems to be quite simple, as we can choose among a number of plug-ins or motives which can be displayed very well on mobile devices. We can also go one step further – consider an application or applications aimed at our direct audience.  A well thought-out application may be directed at the potential donors. Why not make it easier for them to support our organizations by offering applications for mobile devices? A similar solution could be provided for volunteers or candidates for volunteers.

Good practices

For many organizations, mobility and full use of its potential may seem difficult or even unattainable. However, we have already seen the first examples of how well the use of mobile devices may fit into promotion and activity of NGOs. The Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity, one of the biggest Polish NGOs which activates more than 100,000 volunteers every year, gathering millions of zlotys to help improve healthcare for children, has shown recently how useful a simple smartphone application may turn out to be in practice. The application of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity for smartphone users was made available in the market of the Android platform – Google Play. Thanks to the application, it’s possible to browse through the news associated with this nationwide fundraising event for sick children. The application allows the users to search in a simple manner for the nearest Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity branch (local unit coordinating the activity of volunteers) and send a Premium text message to support the foundation. It also allows the user to monitor the current amount of money gathered from the donors. Does it pay off? The organization, yet again, has reached a record-breaking amount of funds gathered.

Join Sektor 3.0!

The application of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity is only one example that demonstrates the potential of mobile technology. This is why – keeping in mind the dominant trends – the focus of the Sektor 3.0 conference is mobile technology. This year, the organizers expect upwards of 350 guests from all parts of Poland, and 30 speakers representing such fields as business, science, politics, and, of course, the third sector. The conference is held through the New Technologies Locally program organized by the Polish-American Freedom Foundation, and implemented by The Information Society Development Foundation (FRSI).

Learn more about the Sektor 3.0 conference: http://sektor3-0.pl/konferencja2014/

Tomas Wojciechowski
Tomas Wojciechowski is a representative of The Information Society Development Foundation (FRSI) and Editor in Chief of the website, Technologie.ngo.pl. He is a sociologist, journalist, editor, and online communication specialist. For several years, he has been associated with nationwide media. He started his career with Gazeta Wyborcza, then spent a couple of years as a journalist with the Newsweek domestic section. As a journalist, he specialised in social affairs and intervention journalism. For the last three years, he has been involved in electronic media. At the moment, he is implementing several online projects for the TOBE Group agency. His hobbies include effective means of electronic communication and top quality reportage. In his free time, he loves being on his boat and sailing, or skiing off the beaten track. Tomas is a graduate of the University of Warsaw.