Technology Meets Benevolence: Cloud Computing in the Humanitarian World

As we kicked off Day 4 of the NetHope Global Summit at Santa Clara University, Industry, Non-Profit and Government leaders announced a new step forward for humanitarian efforts by embracing cloud services.  I reflected on the mentoring many of us received from Andy Grove, Intel’s former chairman. He always said that the best way to succeed is to focus on what you do best. At Intel, there’s no question our core competency is technology.

 

That premise is what launched us on the road to today’s announcement of NetHope’s Humanitarian and Development Services Cloud initiative. For me, this effort started some three years ago when our Intel’s World Ahead and Corporate Affairs groups put our heads together to align our competence in technology with corporate social responsibility.  Applying technology leadership to scale humanitarian efforts led us to engage with NetHope, a unique Non-Government Organization (NGO).  NetHope’s mission is to advance humanitarian efforts through the use of technology, and is comprised of CIOs of 32 of the largest worldwide NGOs.  NetHope’s “role up our sleeves” approach aligns with Intel’s World Ahead objective to bridge the digital divide and bring uncompromised technology access and its benefits to billions of people.

 

Technology

can add real value to humanitarian efforts by reducing costs and

speeding the delivery of services. We saw this come to life today in the

form of real world examples of how Cloud Services are scaling

humanitarian efforts.  A great example of this, demonstrated by Child Fund International (CFI), is the adaptation and reuse of an existing cloud service to benefit child management.  In a matter of months CFI was able to outfit field workers in Brazil to use netbooks to streamline their processes. Today, one result of the pilot stood out to me.  It showed how the existing paper process can be reduced from one week to 25 minutes.  My simple math says that’s over 80 times more efficient.  Think about the implications this could have for children that CFI and other organizations do not have the capacity to support.

 

NetHope’s cloud focus is perfectly timed with the industry’s evolution to “cloud computing”

– the sometimes over-hyped term for services that are made available

over the Internet. If you’ve ever signed up for an internet email

account, you’re already familiar with the benefits of cloud-based

services: You can get started fast without buying and maintaining

expensive systems. For NGOs, humanitarian cloud services can stretch

limited dollars and IT resources. And cloud solutions are also much more

likely to be successful because they use technologies that are proven

and have already been deployed.

 

Like

the CFI example above, the Humanitarian Services and Development Cloud

initiative is building upon successful projects Intel and NetHope

members are architecting for scale.  Our first success story is the Great Lakes Cassava Initiative (GLCI), an effort led by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to stem the proliferation of crop disease in Africa.

Intel’s contribution included architecting solutions for collecting

much more accurate data on damaged crops and for training farmers on how

to reintegrate disease resistant crops.

 

The

services that enabled GLCI are located in the “cloud” and became a

catalyst for other NGOs and Government sponsored organizations to

implement solutions showcased at this week’s NetHope Summit. The current

efforts are also proving to be sustainable as many of the solutions are

paying for themselves through improved efficiency as well as greatly

reduced time, effort and cost of roll out. The showcase is proving that a

Humanitarian and Development Services Cloud model is a viable way to

solve hard problems — not just in agriculture but also in healthcare,

child welfare, natural resource management and other areas of need.

 

Other showcase solutions included the Tanzania Beyond Tomorrow effort where NetHope partners are teaming with the Tanzanian government to architect eLearning for  the nation’s secondary students; the eHealth Educator, a PEPFAR sponsored pilot  in

Lesotho using netbooks to train military personnel and to collect

health records (22,000 to date); and a demonstration of how multiple

cloud solutions can be extend to integrate humanitarian data with GIS maps, developed by ESRI, for mobile field workers.

 

Intel

has been a strong supporter of the Humanitarian Services Cloud effort

in several ways. Besides architectural leadership, our corporate affairs

group has provided funding to NetHope and some of their member

organizations. Our Emerging Market Platforms Group has created a loaner

program for ruggedized classmate PCs so NetHope members can do rapid

piloting and prototyping.   

 

 I

want to stress the importance of collaboration in these efforts. It

couldn’t happen without the aligned efforts of NetHope NGOs, Development

Agencies, and industry partners, like Accenture, Cisco, HP, Microsoft

and many others.  By adding our combined “Core

Competencies” in technology, we’re proving that we can create

innovative, partner-delivered cloud services that solve hard problems in

a matter of days or months. Ordinarily, many of the showcased solutions

would take multiple years to achieve a “one-off” victory. Now, instead

of humanitarian agencies reinventing the wheel, we’re seeing the

beginning of a new phase in philanthropy where solutions can be deployed

rapidly and affordably. Replicating and sharing successes with other

agencies and organizations is the recipe for sustainability and scale.

 

This is exciting to me both personally and as the chief strategist of Intel’s World Ahead organization.  My personal philosophy is to participate versus donate.  I’m

proud Intel encourages that same perspective, saying let’s bring our

core competency — the ability to design and architect creative

technology solutions — to the world of humanitarian efforts.

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