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Full posts:

Creating a Digital Peace Corps

Post:

04

Date:

Dec 7, 2000

From:

Daniel Ben-Horin


(This is a group response from several members of CompuMentor senior management)

On the whole we really resonate with these premises. They create a bridge between unvarnished technophilia ('access is the answer; what's the question?'), on the one hand, and, on the other, approaches that fail to grasp the transformative potential of new technology....its potential (as yet just a dream) of changing the game, as well as the score.

We think that "4. Technology is a strategic tool for empowering the community infrastructure-once good organizations are in place." places somewhat excessive faith in technology. It seems to be saying that "if we have the infrastructure in place to use technology well, then technology will be used well." But common sense and recent history says otherwise. Sometimes technology helps. Other times it doesn't have much impact, even in good organizations. As our staff consultants at CompuMentor tell us ad nauseum, we often have to give organizational and business advice as well as technology advice. A database doesn't do an organization any good if they don't reengineer their information flow and ownership. If the entire organization uses people til they drop, the IT dept won't have enough resources either. If there's no history of a client service orientation within the organization, it won't take advantage of its website to reach and bond with the organization's audience. Yet organizations with these failings can still be "good" organizations in terms of service delivery and being key parts of community infrastructure. For this initiative to be successful it has to be prepared to offer this kind of organizational support as well. If Points 2 and 3, re building the infrastructure, entails creating a network for organizational support, then this addresses this concern, but we really think the phrase "once good organizations are in place" is too vital--and the adjective "good" too open to varied interpretations--to be left as undeveloped and undersupported as in the current phrasing.

We need to understand why certain technology works and in which situations. What was it about databases and the internet that caused them to enhance productivity in today's business world? Will they have equal impact on npos? Not necessarily. We'd say that the current business revolution is about collecting lots of information, and efficiently deploying it to people who can use it effectively. In the npo world, what information isn't being collected that should be collected? Who should it be deployed to? How much impact would this have? One of the current revolutions is deploying information to clients themselves (you can look at your bank account, money market accounts, UPS shipping history, Amazon inventory yourself). Is this equally true for npos who have drug-addicts as clients? The business world is wringing out costs by making their supply chains shorter and more efficient. Does the npo world have deep supply chains? We think not. So we'd like to see some analysis of what technology is likely to be effective and why in the npo world.

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