Ms. Margaret Richie, Minister for Social Development in Northern Ireland has officially launched a technology donation programme for non-profit organisations in Northern Ireland.

The programme, run by Charity Technology Trust, is supported by Microsoft, Cisco and Symantec and will provide every qualifying non profit with access to technology donations from the supporting companies. It is estimated that up to 4,000 organisations can benefit from this new initiative and can receive technology with a cumulative value of up to £20m per annum.

The Charity Technology eXchange Programme enables eligible organisations to gain access to donated technology, allowing them to choose from a wide range of products from Microsoft, Cisco and Symantec.  The goal of the programme is to help close the digital divide by enabling non-profit organisations to gain the same benefits of efficiency and effectiveness from IT as businesses have in recent decades.

Commenting at the launch Minister Richie said: “Technology is an enabler which will help organisations to achieve things for themselves and their clients which they would not otherwise be able to do. Cost can act as a barrier to technology for organisations operating in the community and voluntary sector. The Charity Technology eXchange initiative is to be welcomed as it will ensure that more nonprofits will benefit from advances in technology - something that will help them to further develop their own services.

“I commend all those responsible for establishing this programme in Northern Ireland and congratulate Microsoft, Cisco and Symantec for supporting the initiative with substantial amounts of technology and grants.”

The programme is being run in partnership with US based TechSoup, a non-profit technology assistance agency that has been supporting non-profits in the area of technology for 21 years. Microsoft, Cisco and Symantec have actively been involved in making technology donations for non-profits in the US and in other parts of the world through their involvement with TechSoup. Since 2006, TechSoup has expanded its software donations platform to 12 countries around the world including the Republic of Ireland last year which saw the launch of ENCLUDEit.

Technology Donations in Action

Laurencetown, Lenaderg and Tullylish Community Association is one of the early beneficiaries of the programme in Northern Ireland. The charity provides services for an outlying rural community. The local geography is one of the reasons for the charity’s existence.

“One of the biggest issues is social isolation,” explains Robert Stockley, the charity’s only full time worker. “People don’t have the same access to services as they would in a town – let alone in the city.”

To help address this, the Association runs a variety of practical activities and groups, such as youth groups and older people’s groups from its base in Laurencetown. Although the organisation enjoys lots of support from the local community, it manages on an annual budget of £76,000.

“The charity has recently set up an after-school youth group for secondary school kids,” explains Robert. “We provide Internet access for those who don’t have it at home and can’t get to a library; they come here to do their homework. Donated security software from Symantec and copies of Encarta and Microsoft Office has made a real difference to the initiative.” Would this have happened without CTX? “On a much smaller scale,” explains Robert. “They might have had to come in to use our office computer to type a letter, for instance.”

Business

For any organisation seeking to secure a donation they should log on to www.ctxchange.org for details. The process is simple and straightforward with a small administrative fee of between 4% and 8% of the value of the donated products payable upon receipt of the donation. The administration fee ensures that the service is sustainable for the long-term and helps to fund Charity Technology eXchange.