The Southern African NGO Network (SANGONeT) was founded in 1987. Over the past 25 years SANGONeT has developed into a dynamic civil society organisation with a history closely linked to the social and political changes experienced by South Africa during its transition to democracy. SANGONeT is still one of very few NGOs in Africa involved in the field of information communication technologies (ICTs) and continues to serve civil society with a wide range of ICT products and services.
SANGONeT's vision is to be a strategic leadership organisation influencing social transformation through ICTs – it strives to contribute to a just, equitable and prosperous Southern African society, where the impact and contribution of sustainable development programmes are supported by appropriate, relevant and affordable ICT solutions.
SANGONeT's mission is to support the effective use of ICTs in Southern African civil society organisations by providing quality services and initiatives – it exists for the purpose of facilitating access, sharing information, building capacity, raising awareness, enhancing reach and impact, and linking people and organisations through the use of ICTs in Southern Africa.
SANGONeT celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2012, and all its services and interventions continue to be shaped by the challenge of strengthening the capacity of NGOs in finding long-term and sustainable solutions in response to Southern Africa’s development problems.
NGOs’ capacity for service delivery increasingly requires that attention be given to their ability to integrate ICTs into their activities. Although many South African NGOs are already active users of ICTs, much more needs to be done to build the capacity of the sector in this regard. With approximately 100 000 NGOs operating in South Africa, this situation defines the raison d’étre for the role and contribution of an organisation such as SANGONeT in support of the NGO sector.
During the past few years SANGONeT has conceptualised and implemented the following strategic interventions to enhance the use of ICTs amongst South African NGOs.
NGO Pulse Portal – launched in October 2005, the portal provides a gateway to the South African NGO sector and a media platform for development news, commentary and debate. As the most prominent NGO website in South Africa, NGO Pulse further promotes communication and networking in the NGO and broader civil society sector by providing a unique snapshot of the sector’s daily activities and outputs. By the end of February 2012, more than 2.4 million people have visited almost 14 million pages on NGO Pulse, while more than 37 000 people subscribe to the weekly NGO Pulse e-newsletter (www.ngopulse.org).
Prodder NGO and Development Directory – a key component of the NGO Pulse portal is Prodder, the most comprehensive and verifiable source of directory information about NGOs and development stakeholders in South Africa. Prodder also celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2012, and a special directory in print will be released on 24 October 2012 (www.prodder.org.za).
SANGONeT “ICTs for Civil Society” Conference – this annual event, first held in March 2005, is the premier technology event on the NGO calendar and presents NGOs with an important opportunity to reflect on the challenges and opportunities presented by ICTs in support of their work. The most recent event was held from 1-3 November 2011 in Johannesburg (www.ngopulse.org/ict4rd), and the next event will be held from 24-25 October 2012 in Johannesburg.
SANGOTeCH – this online technology donation portal, launched in December 2006, aims to assist NGOs by providing software and hardware for very low or discounted fees in conjunction with ICT donor partners, as well as by supporting NGOs to maximise their ICT purchases and infrastructure. Since inception, this initiative has resulted in savings of more than R100 million for the NGO sector in South Africa (www.sangotech.org). SANGONeT is also managing similar initiatives in support of the NGO sectors in Botswana and Kenya.
Mobile Solutions for Small-Scale Farmers – funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, this project aims to increase the income and impact of small-scale farmers in Kenya and Zambia through the introduction of various mobile phone applications.
South African NGO Web Awards – first held in 2006, this annual competition is run in conjunction with the SANGONeT Conference and aims to raise awareness among NGOs about the benefits of having a web presence, stimulate interest in the application of web solutions and applications, and showcase best practices in website creation and maintenance.
The State of ICTs in the South African NGO Sector – this bi-annual research project aims to analyse the South African NGO sector’s application and awareness of ICTs in support of achieving its strategic objectives. The outcomes of the project inform and guide the development of SANGONeT’s future ICT products and services for the NGO sector, and assist NGOs, funders and other strategic stakeholders in understanding the role and relevance of ICTs in support of the sector.
The ongoing challenges facing SANGONeT include strengthening its role and contribution through the relevance of its products and services, customising its ICT services to the specific needs of the NGO sector; improving its interaction, relationship and response to the needs of current and potential NGO clients; building relationships and partnerships with strategic roleplayers in the NGO, government and private sectors; and providing leadership and guidance to NGOs as far as ICT issues are concerned.
Refer to www.sangonet.org.za for more information about SANGONeT’s activities.
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