What does the digital revolution hold for the third sector?

Jonathan Levy, managing director at Class Networks, discusses the opportunities presented to the third sector by the digital revolution.

We are currently living through a period of evolution referred to as the digital revolution. It’s going to be as profound as the Iron Age and the industrial revolution. It will disrupt and change every aspect of our lives. But what exactly is the digital revolution? And how is it impacting third sector organisations?

Some of us remember “new office technology”: fax machines, PCs and laptops. These became cheaper and entered the consumer market. Today innovation starts from the consumer and entertainment arenas. It’s a safe bet that you, along with your family and friends, have smartphones – some of you will have two. Your smartphone is a camera, camcorder, SatNav, wallet, watch, alarm clock, calculator, diary, MP3 player, games console, torch, spirit level, TV, book, newspaper, exercise monitor…and a telephone. It’s only limited by what’s available on the App Store.

At home you may own some form of smart TV, possibly a Google home or Amazon Alexa device. In fact, stop and think about how many devices you have connected to your home router, and how many services and applications you now use on the internet. Think about all the diverse ways you personally communicate, where you shop, how you bank and entertain yourselves and your family.

This is the digital revolution in practice.

More widely it’s about the internet of things – smart cars, smart cities, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, 3D printing, robots & drones and big data. And there’s a lot more to come. We’re only at the tip of an exponential technology curve.

Ok, let’s try an experiment. Close your eyes for 30 seconds and think about everything that’s happening right now in your organisation, and at home. If you double that to 60 seconds, will that have a dramatic effect on what’s happening?

Here are some stats of what happens on the Internet every 60 seconds.

  • 160 million emails are sent
  • 5 million Google searches are made
  • 16 million text messages are sent
  • 5 million Youtube videos are watched
  • 350,000 apps are downloaded from Google play and the App store
  • 450,000 tweets are sent
  • 90,000 Tinder swipes are made
  • If Facebook was a country, it would have the third largest population in the world.

That’s not even the half of what’s going on. All these activities are generating data – 90% of the world’s data was generated in the last 3 years. So how can your organisation get the benefits of this revolution without getting burned by unnecessary expense?

The best advice I can give to you and your organisation is to:

  1. Be wary of re-investing in your current technology. If it’s not already out of date, it will be very soon, so don’t lock yourself in. Cloud technology means that you no longer need big capital infrastructure costs. The cloud is invisible yet packs a power punch for the charitable sector.
  2. You could reduce your IT expenditure because so much can be handled on your behalf by specialist providers. Software updates are done automatically so you don’t need to pay every time it happens. This will free up IT staff time. You could even reconsider whether you need as many people on the team.
  3. Find the right partner who can help you on your digital journey. A partner that can give you a road map based on the specific needs and nuances of your organisation. Most critically look for a provider who can help your people fully adopt this new technology and ways of working.
  4. Don’t waste your time by trying to use every bit of your software package – find out which parts are relevant to your needs. For example, you may have free Office 365, but are you using the right elements, or would it save you time and money to upgrade? Alternatively, have you opted for all the bells and whistles but only know how to implement 25%? This is where you get the best value from the right provider. You should be looking for more than just an installation – also think about listening to help and advice on what’s best for your organisation.

So, while individuals are embracing the digital revolution, I would like to see more third sector organisations embracing digital technology. Third sector organisations are some of the best proponents of social media and are using it in increasingly innovative ways. But leaders could be braver and ask questions of providers.

Most organisations know that things could and should be better. So, my request of you all is that you lead your organisations to embrace technology, embrace digital, do it on your terms but don’t leave it too late. Most importantly be aware that it’s not the technology that creates change: it’s the people.

For more information, please visit www.classnetworks.com, email contact@classnetworks.com or call 0800 160 1920.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.

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