Over 100 Tblisi-based NGOs have applied to take part in the Georgian eRiding project. Funded by OSI and OSGF, the ICT for Civil Society project is nearing month 6 of a 12 month timeline. A team of five eRiders consult and work with ten Tbilisi-based non-profits each.
To launch the program the eRider team underwent a training about the main issues in Georgia such as the NGO environment, legal issues regarding non-profit operations, as well as network types, and hardware issues, etc. As part of the training they worked out the procedures of NGO selection and criteria for potential client NGOs. Based on materials from Strategic Technology and Tech Soup they also developed a sophisticated tech assessment form.
With their new assessment tool in hand they made an assessment of 26 NGOs. They made a special effort to include a diversity of NGOs who differed in activities, size, budget, and level of technology knowledge.
As a result of the technology assessments, they found that most of the nonprofits rarely practice planning, few staff members have been trained to use computers and the Internet because of lack of resources and time. With high staff turn over that means few staff can use the tools they have. While many of the groups surveyed have small networks they rarely use them to improve their efficiency with file sharing, print sharing and connectivity sharing. Few are using e-mail and the Internet to network with other nonprofits and manage their data and information more effectively.
The team is now moving from the assessment phase into full blown support for their groups. Plans for phase two include supporting NGOs outside Tblisi and working with groups working together on issues such as health, human rights and the environment. They are also exploring the promotion of Open Source solutions for non profits.