With the second decade of the 21st century coming to an end, here's an exploration into some new technologies that can be used for impact this year!
Artificial Intelligence (Machine Learning Initiatives) - Artificial Intelligence is leading technological advancements across fields like agriculture, healthcare, environment, computer science research, education and more. NGOs can benefit from AI models and their applications like prediction models, automation models, data simulation and optimization to reform social and economic challenges across sectors. In the next decade, we see a host of new applications of this technology in the impact space with many advantages. The time is ripe to research AI and see how it can be plugged into nonprofit ecosystems.
Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Chatbot technology - Powered with AI, computer linguistics and computer science, NLP is being leveraged to create groundbreaking innovations like voice assistants, virtual chatbots and assistive guides for all. With Google AI assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple Inc’s Siri up in on top spots, new developments and upgrades in NLP( like text classification, sentimental analysis, etc) are being predicted for the year and decade to come. NLP is also being tested to replace the generic bot responses in a call-line to bring forth a more personalized and user-friendly interaction experience to customers.
Cloud Computing - Cloud computing is revolutionizing the way people work and communicate technology through networks. Cloud computing is very interactive and is accelerating the creation of new applications for developing technologies. It holds the potential to solve various challenges faced by NGOs-
Cost and time savings - Cloud backed services require a low budget, have long term advantages and are easier to set up and work with.
The functionalities of cloud services are diverse, accessible and easy to use.
Cloud has a faster rate in the deployment of information and is easy to recover during a disaster/data loss.
There are better storage options and facilities as well as better data organization.
It has secure data access and safe use of applications locally.
22% of NGOs across the world are now using cloud services to ease their work.
IoT and Sensory devices - IoT’s purpose is to connect day-to-day appliances with the internet. This helps these devices, called Information and Communication Technologies or ICTs, to improve outcomes and deliver effective services. IoT is very useful for NGOs in monitoring and data capturing services. They can be integrated into sensory devices to help address challenges across sectors like agriculture, healthcare (using smartwatches and other wearables), governance, security, and other maintenance services.
Big Data Analytics - Big Data Analytics is playing an important role for many NGOs, in segregating and drawing meaningful insights from their data. Right from keeping track of their resources and their organization flow to efficiently analyzing data for donations and funding prospects, Big Data helps in streamlining the whole process to generate meaningful patterns and insights. It also helps identify new forecasting trends and plan new campaigns. NGOs like Child Rights and You(CRY) and Educate Girls are leveraging Big Data for smoother operations, assessing impact etc. Big Data helps NGOs solve the jigsaw of large volume raw data into deriving meaningful information.
BlockChain/ Distributed Ledger System - Anyone thinking about blockchain consequently thinks about Bitcoin. But Blockchain isn’t just limited to a cryptocurrency. It is a decentralized distributed ledger that can be used for various functionalities like digital transfer of payments, gaining information, establishing identity, and tracking of goods in a very secure and private network with its access to specific people. Eg: With the help of AI, IoT, and Blockchain - Akshaya Patra Foundation is saving INR 30 Million by optimizing kitchen services and delivery route management.
Open Source advancements - Open Source projects are open to all organizations and enterprises who can use them to ease their operations and achieve their objectives efficiently. Also, open-source projects and customized softwares are being developed for the purpose of helping people and creating impact. Eg - Sigmah, a project management tool, is best suited for non-governmental organizations working on international aid projects. It allows the NGO's to jointly decide on features while leaving them the choice and flexibility in getting technical support and services.
Cyber Security and Crypto-Management - Cybersecurity and data management are critical for the success of any organization, especially those that have a digital presence. NGOs need to keep a close track of their work, activities, and private data to maintain data security and privacy. This is because their donor information, transaction details etc needs to be secure to ensure limited vulnerability to any kind of fraudulent activities like hacking. Crypto Management helps in securing data and private keys so that they don’t get attacked or stolen by an ill intending external source.
5G Technology - 5G technology is being said to become a mighty technological success in 2020. In the social good space, perhaps the largest impact of 5G would be to persons with disabilities. StorySign application uses AI through 5G to translate children’s books into virtual sign language through image recognition technology, thus teaching deaf and mute children how to read. Also, 5G technology could help farmers to keep track of farm animals and their movements (through chips placed on their collars) in real time with more accuracy. It can also be used for driverless vehicles, thereby increasing road safety and in telemedicine through faster, highly reliable connectivity. Due to its high bandwidth and low latency power, it can be useful for many other impact applications shortly.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) - RPA is one of the most promising technologies in the 21st Century. RPA is defined as software that is programmed to perform a specific task without any human intervention. RPA can be a real life-saver for many dangerous human tasks like mining, construction, etc as well as perform tasks that are considered repetitive and redundant for human minds. Also, they take fewer resources and are error-free, quick and efficient while performing their given tasks. NGOs would soon be able to use RPA for data entry, report collection, etc and focus their human resources more on other channels like networking and human interaction.
In the next article, we will be discussing 10 more technologies that are going to shape the future of the impact space.