NGOs And Technology: A New Powerhouse For Humanity

Dante Ricci

The NGO Advisor defines non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as operational or advocacy-focused entities and groups that are non-profit oriented, public-interest oriented, and active at the local, national, or international level. According to the Advisor, there are nearly 12 million NGOs worldwide.

Many of these organizations are small, independent, or local organizations. However, a good number of them are large multinational agencies that work hand in hand with governments, the United Nations, and private-sector organizations to help improve the lives of millions of people.

For example, USAID is a U.S. government agency that works to end extreme global poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realize their potential. On its website, USAID notes that NGOs “are critical change agents in promoting economic growth, human rights, and social progress.” The organization partners with NGOs “to promote inclusive economic growth, strengthen health and education at the community level, support civil society in democratic reforms, and assist countries recovering from disasters.” 

Accelerating humanitarian efforts with technology

When NGOs take full advantage of innovative technology solutions, their impact increases greatly, as they can both improve their business operations and also how they deliver aid. With technologies like mobile, tracking, mapping, data analytics, and the cloud, NGOs can zero in on the needs of the people they serve more efficiently – and even help prevent crises and find underlying causes. And they can collaborate with other organizations to further these efforts as well. For instance, with the wealth of data that NGOs collect, they can work with governments and other organizations to direct programmatic changes after uncovering insights from crowd-sourced, transactional, and other non-structured data points.

As an example, a recent article in Harvard Business Review (HBR) highlighted how the use of data is helping NGOs transform their business infrastructures. The article discussed how data can help them not only become more efficient, but also “pivot [their] approach from serving constituents needs to tackling the underlying problems that produce them.”

Powerful uses of technology for the greater good

The HBR article describes how technology and data have helped several NGOs take an evidence-based fresh look at the services they offer and then move traditional ones to more targeted assistance and support. Other organizations, such as the ones below, are using technology in similar ways to achieve remarkable benefits.

  • Increased efficiency. The American Red Cross has been able to maximize its donation fund by reducing the internal processing time of its expense management system. This allows the agency to focus more on front-end business processes, and ultimately, the organization’s constituents.
  • Improved assistance delivery. In France, Dons Solidaires is dedicated to helping over 300 charities order basic necessities for the nearly 600,000 people they serve through the donation of excess non-food goods. Dons Solidaires offers this service through an automated, online catalog and inventory system. This technology has helped them increase their efforts threefold while maintaining a minimum number of employees and volunteers.
  • Better resource management. Plan International is one of the largest and oldest child welfare organizations in the world. The organization is using a global technology platform to optimize the use of its resources, gain more efficiencies, and reduce costs. The organization now has better insight into how to deploy its people resources more effectively and to redirect the resulting cost-savings to making a tangible difference in children’s lives.

Technology is key to the United Nations, too

The United Nations (UN) has adopted 17 aggressive Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are aimed at helping to end poverty, protect the planet, fight diseases, and ensure prosperity for all by 2030.

The UN acknowledges that NGOs will play a vital role in this process, as they deliver valuable contributions in promoting “sustainable development through their well-established and diverse experience, expertise, and capacity.” Specifically, the UN values the contribution of NGOs in the areas of analysis, sharing of information and knowledge, promotion of dialogue, and support of implementation of sustainable development.

The UN also recognizes the important role of technology – and data – in achieving these goals. For instance, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said, “The data revolution is giving the world powerful tools that can help usher in a more sustainable future.”

As part of fulfilling our vision and purpose to improve people’s lives, SAP believes that technology can help transform people’s lives. We are proud to provide technology to humanitarian organizations like the ones mentioned here, as well as governments and private sector companies that are actively helping with the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.


About Dante Ricci

Dante Ricci is the Global Public Services Marketing & Communications lead at SAP. His specialties include enterprise software, business strategy, business development, cloud computing and solution selling.