It’s a Celebration!
Today is World Development Information Day (WDID), instituted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 to raise awareness about development problems and the need to strengthen efforts in support of international cooperation to solve them.
Two years ago, to coincide with WDID on 24 October 2005, SANGONeT launched the South African NGO and Development Information Portal. Since its launch, this one-stop Internet information resource has cemented itself as a communication cornerstone for the NGO and development sector in South Africa, and continues to grow from strength to strength under the leadership of Badumile Duma, the new portal editor.
The establishment of the SANGONeT Portal was the next logical step in the growth of an organisation that has, since 1987, developed a wide range of online resources to highlight development and civil society issues in South Africa and the region.
The SANGONeT NGO and Development Information Portal has five core objectives:
To create a community media platform for civil society exchange
To support the strategic development focus of the NGO sector
To enhance the institutional capacity of the NGO sector for increased financial sustainability and programmatic impact
To map civil society and its activities through PRODDER and;
To promote the benefits of information communication technologies (ICTs) in support of the work of civil society
Since the launch of the portal, the SANGONeT Civil Society Information (CSI) Programme has worked tirelessly to ensure that all of these objectives are met on a week-to-week basis.
The programme continues to provide NGOs and the development sector with a media platform and strategic tool to disseminate, communicate and access information of relevance to the institutional capacity of civil society and continues to promote a progressive development agenda aimed at addressing the systematic causes of poverty and underdevelopment.
In the past two years, the portal’s readership base has grown considerably. To date, more than 330 000 people have visited the portal viewing almost 2.3 million pages. The statistical figures attest to the sector’s overall hunger for a media platform that speaks their language and articulates their needs.
In addition to the people that visit the portal, a notable 12 000 subscribe to the weekly e-mail alerting service ‘NGO-Pulse’, the news and distribution arm of the portal.
A key component of the portal is the PRODDER Directory, which is the only verifiable source of information about NGOs and development stakeholders in South Africa. For the past few months, the PRODDER team has worked non-stop to release a print version of the directory due to increased demand from the development sector.
The book will be launched on 29 November 2007. To learn more about this development, click here.
The Bigger Picture
As the portal celebrates its second birthday, SANGONeT celebrated its twentieth anniversary earlier this year.
To highlight this momentous occasion, the organisation released “The SANGONeT Story, 1987-2007 - 20 years of linking civil society through ICTs” during its annual “ICTs for Civil Society” Conference and Exhibition in July 2007.
While the conference presented us with a strategic opportunity to celebrate SANGONeT’s twentieth anniversary, it also provided us with an opportunity to reflect on the progress that South African NGOs have made over the past 20 years in adopting and integrating ICTs in their work. The release of our research study on “The State of ICTs in the South African NGO Sector” was an important intervention in this regard.
Furthermore, in the build-up to the conference, the CSI Programme utilised the portal to adequately communicate the event to our readership. A number of exciting articles and inserts were featured on the portal to generate interest about the event.
Still to Come
As the use of the Internet continues to grow both globally and in South Africa, SANGONeT has noted a significant increase in the number of NGOs that have access to the Internet and their own websites. This is a very encouraging trend, especially given the high cost of connectivity and telecommunications in South Africa.
As such, the web platform as a media tool has increasing relevance for the local development sector. At the same time, the virtual world also transcends physical boundaries and the portal has become a window into South African civil society for global stakeholders with an interest in this country and its development issues.
SANGONeT realises that there are many avenues that the portal is yet to explore. In line with this understanding, we are currently in the process of reviewing the SANGONeT Portal with the view of revamping it into a comprehensive and dynamic platform for community exchange.
Going forward, the portal will host a greater exchange of ideas, news and information enabled by web 2.0 technologies and built around the `profiles´ of NGOs listed in the PRODDER Directory. The portal is well-positioned to become the essential interactive media tool and networking platform for South African civil society.
As we celebrate World Development Information Day in 2007, SANGONeT continues to support the strategic objectives of the Day through its commitment to the ongoing implementation and expansion of the portal.
- David Barnard, Executive Director, SANGONeT.