Digital Disruption within the NGO Sector:
A Strategic and Practical Imperative 

by Abe Lee

Society and the environment stand to gain the greatest share of the rewards from digitization through improvement to welfare, health and other means
— Mark Spelman, Co-Head, Future of the Internet Initiative, World Economic Forum

Research presented at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2016 revealed that the digital economy could generate more than $100 trillion by 2026—and the humanitarian and development sector has a big opportunity to tap into this pool of money. However, speaking at the 10th Conference on Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) in May 2018, Lauren Woodman, Chief Executive Officer of NetHope, said nonprofits are “very poorly positioned as a sector to take advantage of any of that.” One of the main issues for NGOs is they are not considering this digital disruption in strategic ways. Case in point, research conducted by NetHope found that 70% of nonprofits surveyed have no formal, internal digital strategy. Furthermore, “only about half of nonprofit executives believe that digital disruption will have a significant impact on their operations in the near future.”  

The challenge for NGOs is thinking strategically about opportunities afforded by digital disruption—and taking practical steps to operationalize digital innovations to deliver real benefits to nonprofit workers and the people they serve.  

Diona has spent a lot of time talking with customers and thinking about these strategic, yet practical, issues—and the opportunities they bring the nonprofit sector. The result is Diona Mobile Solutions for NGOs and NPOs which provides a simple, affordable mobile solution for nonprofits to manage all aspects of client service delivery and achieve vast improvements in worker productivity, client success tracking, and program measurement and results. 

Diona Mobile solutions turn mobile devices—such as smartphones and tablets—into tools to achieve better organizational and social outcomes. Diona Mobile solutions improve how service providers work and collaborate, access and update client data, monitor progress, and report results. 

We’ve received a lot of feedback from our NGO clients on the features they find most valuable and impactful. Here are the top three: 

1.  Working Offline

Between the years 2000-2018, Africa’s Internet Usage Growth Rate increased 9,941%. While this is a staggering statistic, Africa’s actual Penetration Rate—the percentage of the country’s population that is able to access the internet—is the lowest of any world region at a mere 35%.  Infrastructural development has been unable to keep up with internet demand, and connectivity remains a persistent hurdle. This one example underscores the necessity of offline technology capabilities for NGOs providing services to vulnerable populations. Diona Mobile Visits was specifically designed to overcome internet access challenges with built-in capabilities for working offline so field workers always have access to their technology solution. These features are always available, even with no internet connection: 

  • Functions: Focus on the work completed in the field and make sure it always works. This includes taking photos, capturing notes, capturing authorization signatures, or completing an assessment. 

  • Control: Focus on providing logic to make certain files available offline by default, as well as the ability for workers to make files available offline.  

  • Sync: Focus on a seamless sync back to your system of record because being able to collect information regarding your clients while disconnected is only useful if you are able to sync that information back.  


2.  Capturing an Intake

A client intake involves capturing details of the client’s history, current situation, and potential needs, but it’s often challenging to discover all the historically relevant information that informs the best course of action. The following scenario demonstrates how innovative technology can bridge critical information gaps:  

Laura, a 14-year-old runaway girl, has been brought to the court after being picked up for prostitution. During her hearing, she testified that she had been coerced into having sex. The judge immediately requires that Laura be provided specialized services for sexually trafficked minors. Janet, a caseworker who works with an agency specializing in supporting sexually trafficked minors, is called in. She opens an app on her phone, enters some information about Laura and finds that this isn't the first time Laura has been involved with the agency. Janet accesses Laura's original information (simplifying the "paperwork" associated with opening a file) and immediately is able to see what has—and has not—helped Laura in the past.  

Diona Mobile Visits helps workers like Janet minimize further trauma to clients like Laura by using technology to help get her client the right services and support. It provides a full picture of Laura's needs, and Diona's intake feature simplifies the intake process.  Caseworkers can quickly search for and identify a match in the database for a returning victim, presenting relevant details and context about the victim (e.g., previous workers, past assessments, completed and relevant forms, etc.). Diona's intake feature was designed to remove the need for administering lengthy forms, traveling back to the office, or calling in for support. Diona’s goal is to help NGOs and their workers move from “logistic to holistic” support as quickly as possible. 

3.  Effective Reports

Recently, in our blog about data culture, we posited that a "data culture shift requires a solution that that makes data work for you rather than make you work for your data." Using the data captured as part of your workers’ day-to-day activities—from time spent with an individual beneficiary to the impact of a particular service—all that data needs to be aggregated and analyzed so that the impact of workers’ client service delivery can be converted into program measurement and results. 

Diona Mobility Data Manager provides that solution with built-in reporting and analytics. Not only is real-time visibility of client interactions enabled, but the solution includes data extraction protocols that leverage Microsoft Power BI to provide relevant and interactive reports on your reports dashboard. From a time-bracketed view of services delivered, to a comparison of beneficiaries served, to the effectiveness of particular services—all information is now available at your fingertips through our reporting dashboard. 

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More Digital Disruption Opportunities, Less Worker Disruption

Tools like Diona Mobile Solutions for NGOs and NPOs can support agencies in their effort to think strategically about the opportunities afforded by digital disruption—and to take practical steps to operationalize digital innovations. By leveraging mobile technology, NGOs can implement simple innovations that have a significant impact on how their workers can perform their jobs more efficiently and effectively each day—and with fewer disruptions. Equipped with the right tools, NGOs are better positioned to deliver real benefits to nonprofit workers and the people they serve—today and long into the future. 



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