Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Power of the Internet: What Can it Do it For Your NGO?

I recently attended a multimedia training presented by two fellow VSO volunteers from Makasar. Though I wouldn’t consider myself a whiz, I can certainly navigate my way around the basics of photo and video-editing. However, during the two day training program covering publication design, video editing, frontline sms and website design, even I learned a thing or two. 
But what I really want to share with you are two amazing online tools that, I think, are really changing the way International NGOs are communicating. 

1. Weebly

Don’t let the silly name fool you is one of the most comprehensive, user-friendly and did I mention FREE website building sites you can find on the internet today. With easy to use drag and drop functionality Weebly allows users to create attractive, professional looking websites in no time. Want to include a blog? Photo Galleries? Contact Forms? Weebly makes it easy!

Downsides: There aren’t many but one of the standouts here in Indonesia is that instructions and how-tos are not available in Bahasa Indonesia so basic translations are required for non-English speakers, though the graphics make things fairly easy to understand without words. The other drawback is that a solid internet connection is required for initial design and uploading of graphics. 

FrontlineSMS is free software that turns a laptop and a mobile phone or modem into a central communications hub. The program enables users to send and receive text messages with large groups of people through mobile phones. What you communicate is up to you, making FrontlineSMS useful in many different ways.
SMS stands for “short message service.” It is also known as text messaging. With the growing popularity of mobile phones, especially in developing countries, SMS has become a familiar and widely used form of communication. It offers advantages over traditional voice services including reduced cost and the ability to send messages to large numbers of people in a short amount of time.
Frontline SMS has a world of potential applications but here are just a few of the ways it can be used:
  • Human rights and election monitoring 
  • Disaster relief coordination 
  • Natural resource management 
  • Emergency alerts and mobilising task forces 
  • Field data collection 
  • Conducting public surveys 
  • Health care info requests 
  • Agricultural price updates 
  • Organizing protests 
  • Mobile education programs 
  • Coordinating fundraising efforts 

The clear advantages of FrontlineSMS are that 
  • Does not require an Internet connection 
  • Works with your existing plan on all GSM
    phones, modems and networks 
  • Laptop-based, so it can be used on the
    road or during power outages 
  • Stores all phone numbers and records all
    incoming and outgoing messages 
  • All data lives on a local computer, not on
    servers controlled by someone else 
  • Scalable: messages can be sent to
    individuals or large groups 
  • Enables two-way communication, useful
    for fieldwork or conducting surveys 
So if you are working with a small ngo or start up business make sure to check out these two handy communication tools. But don't forget! The key to any good communication strategy is good planning! So make sure you know your audience, mission and vision before you start creating. 

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