A guest post by Belinda Gorman, Community Affairs Manager at Microsoft New Zealand Limited

Working at both UNICEF and Microsoft over the last few years affords me a broad view of the social and economic opportunities information technology fosters in the hands of non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Many NGOs have already embraced technology to help improve their productivity and overcome the constant struggle to do more with less. Moreover, technology can be a disruptive force that opens exciting opportunities for NGOs to better achieve their missions and accelerate their impact in communities – including those traditionally difficult to reach.

The Asia Pacific region and provides some interesting examples.

One of Microsoft’s Australian NGO partners, Infoxchange, has been instrumental in the establishment of Carbonxchange. Carbonxchange is a social enterprise established to facilitate the establishment of the first certified Tree Cooperative in Timor-Leste. The creation of an online carbon trading service will allow direct carbon trading between the Tree Cooperatives and those wishing to purchase carbon credits.

Further east, UNICEF colleagues in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are embarking on efforts to increase birth registration, commonly take for granted in New Zealand. Birth Registration ensures greater protection of children in cases of particular vulnerability, such as risk of violence and abuse, child trafficking. The project will enable midwives in remote areas to register births using software designed by a Masters Student in Auckland.

New Zealand has a vibrant NGO sector – with 25,685 organisations registered with the Charities Commission. Information technology is being proactively and creatively harnessed by a growing number of NGOs in New Zealand to improve the way they work and respond to increasingly complex issues. One such organization is Plunket.

Plunket has embarked on an innovative new information system, PlunketPlus, to improve child health outcomes through access to in-depth, accurate and timely information. The system will provide greater support to Plunket nurses, allowing them to capture and access information electronically in the field, freeing up their valuable time from administration and record taking and allowing them to focus even more on the children and families they are working with.

As part of its corporate social responsibility initiative, Microsoft works in partnership with NGOs and the IT industry to increase capacity in the sector. We were pleased to see a broad range of NGOs across New Zealand have now taken up donated software valued at a total of more than NZ$17 million.

New Zealand charities who wish to take advantage of Microsoft technology are encouraged to visit the TechSoup New Zealand website.