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Microsoft and MSD offer free ICT consultancy to Canterbury NGOs

Initiative will provide practical advice on technology for non-government organisations in earthquake-affected region.

Microsoft and the Ministry of Social Development have launched an initiative that will provide free ICT consultancy to 50 non-government organisations (NGOs) in the Canterbury region. The initiative is being administered by Infoxchange, an Australia-based not-for-profit organisation formed in the late 1980s that specialises in helping NGOs make better use of technology.

Approximately two day’s worth of consultancy will be provided to each NGO, but this may be split into smaller units of time spread over weeks or months according to the needs of individual organisations.

Margaret Jefferies, chairperson of Project Lyttleton, which was one of five organisations that joined the pilot programme last year, said that her organisation had “got a hell of a lot” out of the initiative.

“What they came out with was a plan – what we can do now, what’s urgent and what we could do in the medium term,” Jeffries said. “One of the first things, it seems pretty obvious now with hindsight, was to get someone on the board who is IT-savvy.” Jeffries added that such a person had now been appointed.

Microsoft New Zealand managing director Paul Muckleston said Microsoft was funding the initiative as it fit in well with the global philanthropy instigated by the software company’s founder, Bill Gates, and it was “a luxury” that Microsoft as a successful company could afford. He added that Microsoft had made donations of technology worth $30 million to the NGO sector over the past four years.

Muckleston said that the initiative would likely be reviewed in six to 12 months by Microsoft and the MSD, and depending on the results at that stage it was possible the scheme could be extended or expanded.

Infoxchange lead ICT advisor and project manager, Henrietta Hall, a former CIO at the Christchurch Press who later worked extensively in the not-for-profit sector based in Wellington, said she had joined the initiative last October as the “person on the ground” in Christchurch.

“I came back to Christchurch in April and it’s important for me to be doing something that is connected with what’s happening here.”

Hall said that despite the involvement of Microsoft, the initiative would be vendor-neutral. “That’s something that Infoxchange is absolutely clear about, so is Microsoft and so is the MSD. We have disclaimers about that on the website and when we are recommending things we will give options.”

So far 26 NGOs have successfully registered for the initiative including Family Help Trust, Christchurch Budget Service, Battered Women’s Trust, Sexual Abuse as Survivors Trust, Supergrans and Te Puna Oranga.

NGOs wishing to apply for the initiative can do so online at www.infoxchange.org.nz/apply-now.

Michael Foreman travelled to Christchurch as a guest of Microsoft.

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