Supporting the Provision of Sustainable Technology for the Developing World

Freeplay Foundation

Who are they?
The Freeplay Foundation

Where are they?
London, Cape Town, USA.

What do they do?
Provide access to sustainable technology to vulnerable people in developing countries.

How big are they?
Fewer than 10 staff, a turnover of under £500k

What did they receive?
Norton AntiVirus software.

The outcome?
Secure systems at home; no money diverted from projects in the developing world.

http://www.freeplayfoundation.org/

The concept of the ‘Wind-up Radio’ will be familiar to many – it’s received widespread publicity as an innovative solution to the energy problem in the developing world. Many regions benefit from resources devoted to radio broadcasting vital services such as distance learning programmes, health information, farming news and advice during emergencies.  However lack of access to electricity or the means to buy batteries leave millions unable to hear radio programmes.

The Freeplay Foundation aims to use wind-up radios and other sustainable technologies to change this situation. From a standing start nearly 10 years ago, the Foundation has been incredibly successful to date. But like many charities of its ilk, the back office functions are run on less than a shoestring.

“When I look at the prices of software, I think ‘for a big corporation this is nothing!’” sighs Abigail Connolly, who has the charity’s IT brief included amongst the many hats she wears. “But we run offices as well – we need exactly the same things as them. We’ve grown rapidly, but our systems haven’t caught up – although we have a nominal IT budget, it’s an unrealistic amount compared with what’s needed.”

The Freeplay Foundation is exactly the type of charity that is benefiting most from the CTX Programme – in this case from a donation of Norton Antivirus single-user licences from Symantec. “We were essentially relying on ad-hoc ways to keep our system secure,” explains Abigail. “We knew we had to get a proper solution in place, but it was a huge amount of money to us. But we couldn’t take the risk, and would have had to have found the money from somewhere.”

Norton software tends to run quietly in the background, and its benefits can be unappreciated by the lay person. Certainly it would have been difficult to fund its purchase at the commercial price. “Where we raise money, it’s for a specific project,” Abigail explains. “Raising money for operations is really difficult. Donors want to provide radios to children in Rwanda, for instance. Not to buy software for the office.  They may not necessarily realise that we need to invest in our infrastructure to work more efficiently”

To Abigail, the Foundation’s first step with the Norton/CTX programme has been a resounding success, and the charity now hopes to acquire a substantial systems upgrade via the scheme. That will put them on a sound footing, IT-wise, and allow them to concentrate on what they do best. “We’re small,” concludes Abigail, “and our people are all pretty hard-pressed. We do try to think about IT, but really we’re all focussed on our fundraising and worldwide projects.”

 
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