CAIRO: A two-day conference brought together NGOs from all over Egypt, outlining their role in the transitional period, all through resorting to IT.
A joint collaboration between Microsoft Egypt, UNDP and ICT Trust Fund, the conference titled “Nebny Masr” or “Building Egypt,” was hosted by the Sawy Culture Wheel in Zamalek.
The first day of the conference focused on the sectors in Egypt which need the most development, highlighting how NGOs can play a vital role in bringing about development through a better understanding and usage of IT.
A session tackling education in Egypt – given by Amal Nasrallah; monitoring and evaluation director at the Egyptian Education Initiative – said the education problem in Egypt lies in the incentives for improvement which always “brings us back to square one.”
In order to overcome this problem, Nasrallah clarified in the presentation; attention must be given to three main aspects which she referred to as the “3 Ps”: the path (of change), the plane (to ride though the path) and the pilot (who would fly the plane).
Just like all other sessions, this one featured a Microsoft representative explaining how Nasrallah’s words could be implemented through the use of IT. Ahmad Abou El Magd – Microsoft representative – introduced several Microsoft products which could be used to provide students with simpler tools for a more interactive learning experience.
Democracy in Egypt and NGOs role in making the community more prone to its practice was the subject of the next session. Acting Minister of Administrative Development Ashraf Abdel Wahab started the session with a detailed explanation of the proper voting procedures for the coming round of elections in Egypt, while Microsoft representative Hussein Al Safy focused on how IT can enhance democracy – in general – by giving people a chance to voice their opinions through the use of internet and social media.
The conference also included sessions about the role of IT in developing the environment and job appointments.
More attention was given to developing NGOs from within on the second day of the conference. Microsoft started with introducing its campaign “Kol Masr;” an educational campaign with the objective of spreading throughout Egypt to eradicate digital illiteracy. The session featured some Microsoft volunteers who worked on the campaign. They shared their experience of teaching people in Boulak district how to use a computer, urging all the NGOs present to take part in the campaign and help spread it to isolated places.
Marketer John Antonios gave a presentation about branding through social media, focusing on the importance of branding NGOs through outlining their values and activities to facilitate their outreach to potential donors. He also explained how social media could play a vital role in that process through the correct use of social media tools such as: pictures, blogs, forums, ratings, podcasts, videos and bookmarking.
Other sessions included strategic planning of NGOs through the use of IT; one of which featured a brief overview of Free Microsoft business products which NGOs can easily use to achieve this goal.
The conference concluded with specialized sessions, discussing NGO-related skills of running projects and writing proposals to donors.
Finally, empirical training was provided to the NGOs in order to practice those skills.
Representatives of participating NGOs told Daily News Egypt that the conference was a fruitful opportunity for interaction and learning.
“We managed to build networks among NGOs for better collaboration,” Ashraf Seddik, president of Masr Al Mustaqbal NGO stated. “It also helped in creating lobbies which could act as pressure groups in order to persuade the Ministry of Environmental Affairs to provide all necessary help in development projects.”
Seddik also added that the conference introduced several Microsoft products, activities and initiatives which NGOs had been previously unaware of.
“We shall use the trainings provided by Microsoft in this conference to train other less advantaged NGOs,” Seddik added.
On the downside, Seddik felt that such a huge conference should have been designed only to help bigger NGOs, since he saw that small-scale NGOs wouldn’t know how to benefit from the information and services offered properly.
Other NGO representatives also sketched the gap between the innovative IT initiatives presented by Microsoft and the poor capabilities available in reality, questioning whether it was the NGOs’ priorities to provide the people with the basics before offering digital opportunities.