NGOs in Uganda believe that information technology offers powerful tools for advancing their objectives but they lack the knowledge and technical support they need to make best use of those tools, according to a survey carried out by the Uganda National NGO Forum.
“There is a desire to embrace ICT [information and communication technology] but also a big knowledge gap, a tools gap, and a service gap” concludes Hussein Sseggujja, who led the survey of 400 NGOs spread across 80 of Uganda’s administrative districts. “The knowledge gap is leading to poor planning and implementation” Sseggujja adds.
Over 70 percent of the NGOs interviewed said that IT has a “high impact” or “very high impact” on development programmes, training and education initiatives and internal staff development.
However, the survey shows that many NGOs do not network their office computers and have little or no system of IT support. Most use standard operating platforms and software, with relatively low uptake of specialised packages for tasks such as book-keeping or contact databases.
Many NGOs operate their own websites, but relatively few report satisfaction with the numbers of visitors they attract, and there is little consistent pattern of content management on these sites. Sseggujja concludes that “Most NGOs are not happy with the activity on their websites. There is clearly lack of understanding of the nature of an organisation’s online presence, and general lack of strategic thinking in this area.”
NGOs make less use of newer social media such as Facebook and Twitter. In general, Sseggujja observes,
NGO staff often use these, along with various mobile phone applications, in a personal capacity, but “These tools have not yet really found their way into the NGO workplace.”
Sseggujja concludes that there is significant room for training both in specific applications and, more generally, in strategic planning for ICT adoption and use.
The need for a more strategic approach is demonstrated, he says, by the fact that many NGOs are unsure how much they currently spend on ICT. Nearly half said they spend between one and five per cent of their income on ICT, but fully a third said they did not know how much they spent.
Only 32% of NGOs have a telephone landline. Mobile phones are used by 53%.
Most NGOs (62%) have 1-3 desktop computers, 21% have more, while 15% have none. Laptops are slightly less common: 56% have 1-3 laptops, 14% have more, while 32% have none.
Of those NGOs with more than one computer, only 44% said these were connected in a local area network. A majority (54%) of respondents with such a network said they didn’t know whether it operated through cable or wireless.
A majority (65%) of NGOs rely on Microsoft Office for their office software, with relatively little uptake of more specialised tools. Sixty percent said they use accountancy software. Of these, 28% use Microsoft Excel, 30% use Tally, 10% use Pastel and 6% use Turbo Cash.
Only 35% said they use software for “constituency relationship management” (maintaining contact and membership databases, etc). Microsoft Office software is almost unchallenged this field: 59% use Excel, 30% Access, and 6% Outlook).
Fully 46% of NGOs said they have no technical support for systems and software, while 29% outsourced technical support and only 14% had in-house support.
Of those using external support providers, 43% rely on private individuals and only 5% rely on contractors. Of those relying on in-house support, 36% turn to “interested staff” who do not have a clearly defined IT support role, while only 22% turn to “dedicated IT staff.”
A large majority (77%) of the NGOs have internet access. MTN is the most used internet service provider (37% ) followed by Orange (24%) and UTL (23%). Most connect to the Internet using 3G modems (53%), whilst others rely on ADSL lines (15%) and some still use dial-up connections (10%) A small minority (2%) use wireless (WIFI) connections.
Around 44% operate their own websites, but of these only 15% rated the activity on their sites as “high” or “very high.” Only 13% of those who operate sites have an internal webmaster, while 17% rely on an external webmaster and fully 46% have unspecified, “other” arrangements for adding content. Only 14% of the sites operate by NGOs can be accessed via mobile phone, and fully 84% of respondents did not know what software was used to maintain their sites.
NGOs make some use of websites other than their own to promote their work or causes. A total of 31% had published photographs on the web, 9% had published videos (through platforms such as YouTube), and 8% made use of blogging.
Use of new social media is relatively low: 37% of NGOs are represented on Facebook, 18% use Skype, 11% Twitter and 6% Linked In.
Using a detailed, 20-page questionnaire, trained enumerators collected information from 377 NGOs, coming very close to the target of five NGOs in each of the 80 districts selected.
Of the sampled groups, 14% were international NGOs, 35% were national Ugandan NGOs operating in more than one district, and 52% were district-level NGOs. They work on issues from human rights (16%) to water and sanitation (11%). The great majority (95%) employ between one and ten full time staff. Their annual budgets range from less than 5 million shillings (18%) to more than 150 million shillings per year (22%).
A report is being finalised and will be published shortly.