Information & Technology NGOs harness the power of innovative new technologies and put them to use for common causes. While many of these organizations focus on improving access to information, many of the leading information & technology NGOs have come up with various ingenious ways to put technology to work in the name of human rights. Although the field is young, the successes of many of the first information & technology NGO pioneers are sure to encourage the growth of new ventures.
Perhaps the most visible of this first wave of information & technology NGO is the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia and was given the top spot in Global Journal’s first ever rankings for the top 100 NGO’s. Creative Commons provides a similar service by granting individuals the power to easily distribute photographs online while maintaining control over copyrights. In doing so, Creative Commons has been successful in giving users access to the use of photographs for free in the same way that Wikipedia brings encyclopaedic information to individuals free of charge. Ushahidi and Mideast Youth have taken more community-based routes to the distribution of information. Ushahidi first started as a means for individuals to track violent outbreaks in Kenya and has now developed into a general tool for mapping information.
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Similarly, Mideast Youth works to promote transparency through both the distribution and discussion of information in the Middle East. Apopo and Frontline SMS have taken more creative routes to incorporating information technology into their work. Frontline SMS develops free software that enables communities in regions outside of normal cell phone coverage to communicate via text message. Apopo trains rats to detect landmines as well as identify diseases in mucus samples. Many information and technology NGOs hire a small amount of employees due to the fact that most of these organizations do not do as much hands-on work as other NGOs.
Nevertheless, they offer a different way to help an NGO by hiring software developers and programmers as well as legal and administrative staff. Furthermore, the recent proliferation of information and technology NGOs makes it a great field for individuals looking to start their own organizations.