In the first part of this article we looked at the ways in which technology such as mobile communications, computing and the internet can help charities spread their messages and reach their potential sources of funding and aid. However, all of these technologies can also have more direct applications for some charities by actually assisting the work that they carry out.
The speed with which data can be shared between, not only fixed locations over extensive wide area networks and virtual private networks, but also over wireless technology, smartphones and 3G connections from remote locations and on the move, has unleashed numerous possibilities for charities to become more effective and efficient in the work that they carry out. Charities that reach out to the vulnerable can be more responsive and can more easily take their work to these individuals rather than waiting for them to come to the charity. Furthermore technological advances can be employed and promoted by charities as solutions to help the vulnerable become self sufficient, empowered and integrated into society.
Efficiencies in Health Care
One particular field in which many charities operate is healthcare and, although technology in this area is often at the forefront of technological advances in general, such high technology as scanners and robotic surgical devices, which are revolutionising the effectiveness of both diagnosis and treatment, can be very costly.
However there is massive potential for technology, particularly mobile technology, to overcome many of the obstacles faced by carers and healthcare workers, especially where there are issues relating to location. A great idea of how creative combinations of existing technologies can be used to increase efficiencies in this area can be taken from the recent adoption in some hospitals of robots on which tablet computers are attached providing video conferencing facilities. These mobile face to face communication tools, which can be used at the patients bedside, allow consultations to occur between patient and doctor even when the two parties are in different hospitals. This not only makes the hospital efficient (the cost is not small but is less than employing extra staff), to the benefit of all its patients, but also ensures that the patient receives the best possible care, and in good time too, even when the most appropriate doctor for their ailment is located in a different hospital.
Mobile Devices in the Field
As mentioned in the previous instalment of this article, mobile devices can be vital tools for in the field to provide a commentary on the work being done and the conditions being faced by charity workers, but these channels of communication can also be invaluable in allowing charity workers to share information between themselves instantaneously and on the go so that the demands of the vulnerable and in-need can be responded to most effectively and speedily. For example, international charity workers who are treating patients in the field can communicate symptoms to colleagues based in a central location, using mobile phones, text messaging, instant messaging email and even video, so that the diagnoses and treatments can be determined remotely but then implemented on location, straight away. Alternatively workers can use these mobile technologies to arrange and change logistical planning whilst in the field, to respond dynamically where the need is greatest by communicating and researching the information they need as they go.
When any technology is employed or purchase by a charity, it is worth that charity approaching the original provider (or any other big business that has charitable links) to see whether there are any cost savings to be had due to their charitable status. Many providers will offer concessions and discounts whilst some will even provide services gratis, such as staff time and expertise, digital services or computing resource (e.g., cloud hosting) as part of their corporate giving schemes.