This lively one-day conference, entitled The Power of Information: New Technologies for Philanthropy and Development, held in London on 15 September, brought together people from the philanthropy sphere with those who are applying new technologies in the field to mobilize communities, help them share knowledge, promote best practice, and hold governments and donors to account.
After a welcome address by Fran Perrin of the Indigo Trust, and a warm up by Kenyan practitioner Philip Thigo (SODNET), the opening keynote address was delivered by Richard Allan – a UK legislator and Director of Policy for Facebook. They set the context and overarching message of the event: that technology no longer exists in a separate world – it is no longer the arcane domain of technology specialists struggling over boxes and wires. The infrastructure is there for anyone to use, from widespread mobile phone networks even in Africa’s poorest countries, to freely available information and data handling applications and social media tools. It is all so new that, as Fran Perrin put it, ‘there are no experts’ – people are harnessing the power of these new technologies because they are learning by doing, and donors need to get behind this new paradigm. Collaborating, sharing experiences and being entrepreneurial has never been more important. This entails a level of risk that donors and funders must be willing to share.