The ninth Charity Technology Conference took place on Wednesday and Civil Society News has collated some of the insights from the day.
1. ‘Email is dead’
Maybe not what delegates were expecting to hear at a technology event. But it seems that young people are no longer using email, according to Richard Watson, futurist and founder of What’s Next.
Watson also told a room of digital people, for who their smartphone is an extension of their arm, to turn off all technology for one day a week. They are in danger of addiction, and need to take steps to fight it off.
His closing session on remaining human in a digital age certainly gave the audience plenty to think about before the drinks reception. His warning that technology is fundamentally altering our brains is certainly something to bear in mind when adopting new technologies in the workplace (I’ve certainly withdrawn my request for a third screen after being told that you lose ten IQ points per extra screen).
Colleagues in fundraising will be interested in his assertion that people are more “reckless” with digital money than with paper cash.
Earlier in the day Jacqui Taylor, chief executive of Flying Binary, in a session about unlocking the value of open data, said that for generation Z (those born after 1993) things have to be “interactive” to engage them.
2. ‘Be prepared for anything to go viral’
Claire McArthur, digital media manager at Motor Neurone Disease Association, said that having plans in place meant that the charity was able to take full advantage of the ice bucket challenge fundraising phenomenon this summer.
She advised charities to make sure that their website can handle sudden surges, that social media plans are in place for responding and that text donate lines are set up.
3. Action is more important than policy if you have a data breach
In a session on preparing for and mitigating the risks of cyber attacks Andrew Paterson, senior technology officer at the Information Commissioner’s Office, revealed that the regulator would much rather organisations that experienced a data breach had evidence that they had done something following the breach than that there was a policy.
“Obviously we’d prefer both,” he added as delegates mentally moved ‘write data breach policy’ to the bottom of their ‘to do’ lists.
Elsewhere Alan Baker, solicitor at Farrer & Co, urged delegates to make sure that they scrutinise contracts with potential cloud computing providers. And to make sure if you are planning to store data outside of the European Economic Area the terms and conditions for website visitors reflect this change.
4. Digital is not just for the digital team
Laila Takeh, who was until recently head of digital engagement at Unicef UK, said that: “At some point digital may no longer exist as a separate discipline. It will just be something that everyone lives, breathes and does.”
She explained that for its big live events, such as the Glasgow Olympic Games, Unicef got people from all over the organisation involved in its digital command centre. The charity organises training for all staff to support them to use social media in both professional and personal situations.
5. Make your IT team a start-up incubator
Stuart McSkimming, head of IT at Shelter, urged fellow IT directors to make all team members a ‘project manager’ with ownership over projects to encourage innovation.
In another session John Barrick, chief executive and Paul Hughes, head of IT at the Stroke Association, outlined how the charity had moved away from the idea that the IT strategy was about systems and thought in broader terms about the charity’s aims, and that this has enabled to deliver more services digitally and reach more people affected by stroke.
6. The technology is great, people are the problem
The overwhelming theme throughout the day was that the technology is great, and so are the IT teams, but one real problem remains: the people who use the technology, who obstinately refuse to do so in the way the IT team intend them to.
Several IT leaders stressed the same point: whether it is getting everyone to enter data the same way, sticking to data security policies, or championing the charity on social networks, without buy-in from staff things will go wrong and projects will fail.
So how do we get people to do what they should be doing? Nobody seemed to have a clear answer – maybe a subject for next year’s conference?
Source: Civil Society IT