NetHope and the University of Waterloo Research Partnership

In the Spring of 2007 an agreement was made between NetHope and the University of Waterloo’s Department of Management Sciences. The agreement was to enable students from the online Masters in Management Sciences in the Management of Technology to undertake projects supporting the work of NetHope as assessed work as part of an elective in Project Management.

Projects commenced in 2007 and have continued since then – many of them are described here. To date over 30 projects have been undertaken in which University of Waterloo students have worked with NetHope.

The projects involve groups of students working on information technology oriented projects for NetHope. The projects are agreed between NetHope sponsors and the university prior to the students joining the course. For thirteen weeks students work on the project and deliver a final written report and online video presentation, as well as any other project deliverables that have been agreed, to NetHope upon its completion. Project teams meet online with their NetHope sponsors weekly to review project progress and discuss relevant issues.

In Spring 2013 the course had a new offerring added with the Conrad Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology and was offered in a blended classroom and online format. Meanwhile the MMSc projects have continued.

The Research Projects

About 400 students have now been involved in projects with NetHope. Their projects have involved work in the following areas:

Project Management Practices Review

A review was undertaken of the project management practices of the NetHope member organisations. A survey was undertaken and common practices were identified. These practices were analysed and guidance was given to NetHope on how these might be improved.

Global Connectivity Database

A database was created to collate information on the methods and strength of connectivity of NetHope member organisations in their global locations. This database can be continuously updated as circumstances change and can be used to assist the development of solutions that correspond to existing connectivity and to allow NetHope members to work with each other on local connectivity solutions.

The Last Mile

An analysis of technologies to create local internet connectivity in areas where NetHope members have local operations was undertaken . Various solutions were studied and an analysis provided to NetHope to assist with identification of appropriate solutions to support the application of connectivity based operations.

Use of Mobile Technologies in Agriculture and Health

Mobile technologies are increasingly being used in developing countries in the agriculture and healthcare fields. A comprehensive review of activity here was undertaken and provided to NetHope for use by members as they consider their own use of these technologies.

Information Technology Solutions for Counterfeit Drugs

Counterfeit prescription medications are responsible for millions of deaths annually in developing countries. Following work undertaken at the Accenture Strategy College, a study was conducted to analyse possible information technology based solutions to this problem. Available technologies were reviewed and recommendations made. Work continues on the project by NetHope and Hewlett Packard and others.

Power Solutions for Tanzania Education

NetHope, Accenture and others had been working with the Tanzanian government on the creation of internet connected schools to transform secondary education in Tanzania. The project relied on identifying an electrical power solution that would enable this to happen in rural areas that were usually without an electrical power source. The students examined the available options, both in terms of computer technology and power sources and recommended a solution.

Projects for the Red Cross

These focused on the development of a social franchise model for the establishment on internet cafes in the third world and three groups looked at various aspects of this. The first studied and existing Red Cross internet café in Uganda, the second developed a model for Red Cross national organisations to use for social franchise internet café establishment, while the third developed a model for the role that would be played by the International Federation.

Corporate Social Responsibility Funding for Information Technology in Development

Corporate social responsibility funding for the use of information technology in development has been weak to date and this two group project developed approaches that NetHope members might use to identify and access potential funding opportunities. The first group developed a first draft of the model and detailed its possible use in East Africa. The second developed the model further and examined its application in Central and South America.

Development of the NetHope Cloud Services Portal

NetHope were developing a portal to enable its members to access and share data on a wide range of cloud based services. The group provided support to NetHope in the design of the portal itself and in the collection and categorisation of data for the portal.

Centre For Information Technology Research in International Development

The group reviewed literature and research groups on the use of information technology in development and proposed a model for the creation of a research institute. A survey was drafted to study the use of information technology by development non governmental organisations and a website was created for a possible research institute.

Development of an Approach For Improving Collaborative Efforts Within and Between Global NGOs

This project focused on the use of information technology based collaborative tools within and between NetHope member rganisations. A review of collaboration models was undertaken and a NetHope Collaboration Maturity Model was developed. The model included a questionnaire to assist with the identification of member maturity level.

NetHope Cloud Services Sustainability Project

The need for the NetHope Cloud Services Portal to become self sustaining led to this project which was to find avenues for monetizing the portal. The team decided to look into the current site state, contents and general overview of the site. Findings from the current site analysis led to further outline of required/necessary work packages. The group members were divided into several teams as needed.

Surveys were sent out to stakeholders and research works mainly through comparisons with existing successful sites were carried out. These led to the final conclusions and recommendations. It was discovered that further work should be done on the site as a
whole before marketing strategies could be implemented. Recommendations on how to better make the site self sustaining were proposed in this report.

Targeting NetHope Connectivity and Infrastructure Vendors

NetHope members seek to work with connectivity and infrastructure vendors to access charitable donations, discounts or partnership programmes. Prior to this project, NetHope members engaged in discussions with prospective companies with little or no background information.
The team developed a framework for the assembly and presentation of vendor information and undertook research on key NetHope vendors to populate their model. The information gathered provides NetHope with valuable intelligence to support their vendor discussions.

NetHope Shared Services Helpdesk

Sharing of information technology between NetHope members may reduce costs and improve services for all who participate. This project reviewed the existing shared services, surveyed NetHope members on their current helpdesk provision, the services offered and their costs and found that a wide range of provision existed.
A business model was created for a shared service desk model using an outsourced third party provider. This was presented at a meeting of NetHope members and initiated discussions on the development of shared service provision.

Developing the Case For Improved Connectivity Infrastructure in Sierra Leone

The goal of this research was to provide the NetHope team with a complete analysis that outlines the current state of Sierra Leone’s demographics, education and health; thoroughly analyze all existing ISP players and investigate the technical and financial issues that are preventing Internet Service Providers increasing their penetration into Sierra Leone’s market (both geographically and financially). This report also provided the team’s recommendations on NetHope’s prospective ISP partners that, based on a review of their financial health, level of penetration in Sierra Leone and their support by Multinational partnerships.

NetHope Solutions Centre Communities of Practice Handbook

The NetHope Solutions Center has been created by NetHope to enable NetHope members to collaborate with each other, access and share information on the use of information technology in development and to access and share information on products and services that are available with deals and discounts for NetHope members. This project focussed on the NetHope Solutions Centre Community Pages and how these would be presented to NetHope members and used by them. A comprehensive handbook was developed for leaders of the Communities of Practice.

NGO Activity Mapping

Mapping technologies have developed rapidly in recent years, enabling extensive data to be plotted on digital maps and interrogated for a range of purposes. NetHope asked the university to develop a mapping tool to support their needs and populate it. The map which was developed records the location of NetHope member global activities and provides information on each project. The online mapping tool was developed, populated and handed over to NetHope for their continuing usage in the future.

NetHope Member Information Technology Strategy Review

This research reviewed the IT strategy of NetHope members and conducted an analysis to identify the key technology choices non-profit organizations can make to further their respective missions, strengthen their organization’s capabilities and/or secure efficiencies. comprehensive survey to study the overall IT strategy and level of IT adopted by each of the NetHope member organizations. The findings of this research are particularly applicable to the NetHope members’ executives and administrators to enhance their awareness of IT in handling various tasks such as managing organization information, enhancing communication with staff and volunteers, performing effective administrative work and more, which should influence their decisions about the adoption and usage of IT in their organizations.

Improving the Reach of the NetHope Solutions Centre Online Stakeholder Community

This project examined the participation of constituent groups in the Solutions Centre and made recommendations on how their engagement might be improved. Particular emphasis was placed on the role that social media might play in doing this. Two research groups worked on this project independently to provide a diversity of recommendations.

Use of Big Data in Humanitarian Development

Big data is being increasingly used in businesses today. Information technology is making this data available and allowing it to be processed and analysed in ways that were never before possible. Big data is also becoming available in Humanitarian Development and understanding of its application and use remains weak, This project created a research report on the use of Big Data by Humanitarian Development organisations. It included information on the work that NGOs are doing with Big Data today and made suggestions on how it might be used in the future.

Internet Connectivity and the Refugee Crisis

This set of four projects examined the use of internet connectivity in a range of refugee environments. Internet connectivity can provide substantial benefits for refugees. NetHope has undertaken work to provide connectivity in refugee camps, for example Dadaab in Kenya, and is keen to see connectivity provided to other refugee camps and refugees who are not living in camps, making the benefits of connectivity available to them. While short term funding from donors and other sources may provide some initial support, to be continuing benefit, solutions need to be sustainable for as long as they may be of benefit. These projects provided analysis and recommendations on connectivity in refugee camp and non refugee camp environments and examined technical and financial options for its provision.

Conclusion

The projects undertaken thus far have been successful – each delivering value to NetHope and their member organisations. The programme continues.

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