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Have We Forgotten the Human Aspect of Technology?

The COVID-19 Roundup

The pandemic has nonprofits accelerating their use of tech, overwhelming many whose operations aren’t designed for digital.

The COVID-19 Roundup is a curated list for social sector practitioners and policymakers navigating the complexities of the global pandemic.

01. Fast-Tracking Digital Transformation? Start with People

The pandemic has forced nonprofits to accelerate their use of digital technologies, placing an unprecedented burden on many whose operations aren’t designed for digital. But in our race to transform digitally, have we forgotten the human aspect of technology? For Sam Caplan of New Spark Strategy, starting with people, not technology, “forces us to think more about outcomes then outputs.” In a white paper published with the Technology Association of Grantmakers, Caplan makes a compelling case for modeling IT strategies as theories of change. “Addressed collectively, technology can forge a new identity based on operational excellence and future aspirations.”

02. A Directory of Ethical Tech that Puts People Above Profit

To survive the global pandemic, nonprofits must learn how to leverage digital technologies. But not any solution will do. Advancing social change work in digital contexts requires nonprofits to weigh the costs and benefits of tech tools before they’re implemented in the workplace. And while organizations like the Center for Nonprofit Management provide social change leaders with skills and tools to help manage their projects online, cherry-picking trustworthy tech from a crowded marketplace of apps requires time and resources some teams don’t have., a London-based nonprofit project, is building a directory of ethical alternatives to help resource-strapped teams make better-informed decisions about the tech they use.

03. “Data Trafficking” Reveals Police as Prime Buyers

Data breaches allow bad actors to exploit individuals who often aren’t aware of the incident until it’s too late. Critical in the fight against data exploitation is the ability to track IP addresses and URLs associated with malware, bots, phishing scams, and other techniques used to undermine user safety. Now, the threat intelligence platform SpyCloud is selling hacked data to law enforcement, which, amid ongoing open government initiatives, raises concerns around police agencies using stolen data. In April, the company announced it had analyzed 136,000 new domains with COVID-19 themes, and made the dataset available in order to help security professionals “distinguish which ones are legitimate, questionable, or outright malicious.”

04. Tracking COVID Racial Data

The COVID Racial Data Tracker is gathering up-to-date race and ethnicity data on the pandemic across the United States. The project began in response to a series of essays by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi about the need to protect vulnerable communities amid the crisis. A collaboration between the COVID Tracking Project and the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research, the project’s aim is to aid research by correcting for data that is incomplete or inconsistent.

05. Evaluating Administrative Data in the COVID-19 Response

In June, MERL Tech partnered with CLEAR-Anglophone Africa to examine responsible data use and remote monitoring in Africa amid the pandemic. In the last of three sessions, public officials in Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa explained how they are using “routine” data for the COVID-19 response. In Kenya, data across a spectrum of public and private institutions is being used to evaluate the impact of COVID-related policies, while in Malawi, data programs have integrated Google mobility data to better understand the effects of the virus on migrant and refugee populations. Panelists discussed how data could be used in national and global contexts, and considered a range of solutions based on gaps in existing administrative data systems.

06. Predicting the Post-Pandemic Landscape

Challenges brought about by the pandemic have forced many nonprofits to radically change their operations in order to survive. Many others may not be so fortunate. A recent article from the Stanford Social Innovation Review considers how philanthropic vitality might be restored once the crisis abates. Impact Economy’s Maximilian Martin writes, “There will be no one-size-fits-all solution, but collectively, philanthropy will be judged not only on the contribution it makes now to solving the COVID-19 crisis, but also on how it rebuilds itself after the emergency and whether it can ultimately create systemic change.”

07. Mitigating Challenges Faced by Nonprofits in 2020

TechSoup is asking social sector organizations with limited resources to share about the challenges they’re facing in 2020. Focusing on technology and concepts like digital readiness and data collection, the goal of the online survey is to provide broad, systemic support to mitigate or better illuminate the challenges faced by nonprofits as a result of current events. Complete the 15-minute survey.

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