Submitted by Microsoft
"Microsoft is partnering with these NGOs to drive further adoption of technology that can speed information when it is most critical," said Pamela Passman, vice president of Global Corporate Affairs at Microsoft. "We at Microsoft believe it is important to help improve humanitarian efforts through financial donations, technical resources and the volunteer efforts of our employees worldwide. This grant is directed at improving collaboration among agencies, which is one of the most vital issues our NGO partners are trying to solve."
NetHope ( http://www.nethope.dreamhosters.com) is a membership organization composed of the chief information officers and chief technology officers of 17 global NGOs working in international development. The Interagency Working Group on Emergency Capacity Building Project (http://www.ecbproject.org) is composed of seven of the most active agencies in this space, including CARE, Mercy Corps and Save the Children. Their focus is to improve collaboration and capacity in disaster response, including improved use of information and communications technology to assist in their work.
"Microsoft has played a catalytic role in fostering strong alliances among leading international NGOs, enabling them to unleash the power of technology to solve common problems cooperatively," said Molly Tschang, executive director of NetHope. "This collaborative model creates leverage for technology to dramatically improve the efficiency, speed and information sharing by those who need it most during emergencies."
NetHope's membership will use Microsoft's donations to aid with major systems upgrades, moving from IT infrastructure that often has been cobbled together over time and across a number of global offices to a more unified platform using Microsoft® Windows® XP and the Microsoft Office system. Microsoft is also supporting the ECB's efforts to establish online collaboration and conduct a broad technology assessment across the seven agencies. The assessment will guide future technology investments within and among the various organizations. One example of such an effort is an online learning center, which will provide a cohesive place for emergency personnel to gather resources and learn about country-specific practices and procedures. The ECB also is pursuing a staff capacity dashboard solution that will allow relief organizations to track their performance metrics against sector standards.
"The numerous disasters in the past year highlighted the need for increased collaboration among NGOs responding to humanitarian crises," said Greg Brady, project director for ECB. "With Microsoft's support of the ECB Project, we are strengthening ties between NGOs to improve coordination through better use of communication and technology."
Microsoft knows from past experience that technology can make a difference in disaster response. During the Kosovo crisis, the company worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to create the Refugee Field Kit to provide displaced people with new, official identity cards and an easier method for finding family members. This use of technology essentially changed how the UNHCR had dealt with refugees for 50 years -- with paper-and-pencil lists of people. Last year, Catholic Relief Services and Microsoft developed a portal solution to accelerate global relief response to the Southeast Asian earthquake and tsunami.
More recently, the day Hurricane Katrina hit the southern United States, a Microsoft database architect in Birmingham, Ala., knew there would be a need for people separated from their families to let loved ones know they were safe. As a result, Microsoft engineers worked virtually nonstop for four days to develop http://katrinasafe.org, an online tool used by Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas to help evacuees find family members separated by the crisis. The site was built in alliance and consultation with technology partners and nonprofit organizations. Katrinasafe.org shares data with Yahoo!, Google and others for the purpose of assisting in family location.
"Sadly, disasters do happen. Through our long-term involvement with disaster response, we have built programs designed to maximize use of our technology expertise as well as our cash contributions," Passman said. "Our relationships with nonprofit organizations are designed to provide long-term value for the organizations and their ability to respond in crisis situations. We believe our most effective response to these situations is to put our tools and technology into action."
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Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.
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