Non-profits, NGOs and social enterprises need a leg up. Tech firms can “do well by doing good” for this important sector.

Rapid digitalization across the Asia Pacific region (APAC) has been touted as a silver lining for future resilience amid a pandemic that has wreaked havoc for its markets. 

According to Google’s E-conomy SEA report 2021, consumers are purchasing nearly four times more digital services than they did before the pandemic. South-east Asia had 40m new internet users coming online in 2021, bringing the internet penetration in the region to 75% of the population. 

The impact of having a significant number of new users on the internet cannot be emphasized enough. These new users now have digital access to education and information, basic healthcare, e-commerce platforms, as well as financial services, for the first time ever. 

Yet, while we celebrate this amid the hardships and setbacks brought on by the pandemic, it is crucial that we look out for those who risk being left behind by the wave of digitalization. Tech companies, in particular, have an obligation to connect to the communities they operate in, and support a just and inclusive digital transition. 

A framework for tech philanthropy

The most powerful corporate giving leverages all of a company’s assets to drive positive impact.

Some organizations have developed social impact programs as an extension of their corporate social responsibility. Through such programs, they mobilizing products, employees’ expertise, and funding to address gaps in digital readiness for non-profits and communities across APAC.

This model of integrated philanthropy, pioneered by the Pledge 1% movement, can provide a powerful framework for tech philanthropy. 

We all know that non-profit organizations are on the front lines addressing community needs. However, we may not know that they also face opportunities and challenges in this new world of work.

According to research from non-profit Techsoup Global Network, the pandemic has forced 57% of global non-profits to adopt new digital tools—a promising sign. However, it also found that only 25% of non-profits had a formal digital strategy; and of those, only about half had the resources needed to execute it. 

Working around tight budgets, limited staff, and knowledge gaps, non-profits may compromise on items such as the protection of their data and IT services. Those of us working in the cybersecurity industry know all too well the risks that come with such a compromise. Our expertise can make an impact; the wider IT industry has a responsibility and opportunity to support the better use of technology among non-profits. 

The first and best way to do this is to make our technology more accessible. We can commit to provide our products to non-profits for free for the first X number of users, to support high impact organizations in APAC such as The Australian Red Cross and The Green Climate Fund in Korea.

Tech firms can also invest in cross-sector collaborations like Code for Japan’s Civictech Accelerator. The program brings together engineers, non-profits, and students from across Japan to prototype and build tech products focused on education, disaster relief, and issues impacting underserved groups.

Growing the future tech workforce

As technology firms bring waves of innovation and job creation, it is critical that local communities and underrepresented groups have access to these opportunities as well.

By investing in tech education and job training programs for worthy causes, tech firms can “do well by doing good” to help build a pipeline of talent for the future. 

In Singapore, programs like United Women Singapore’s Girls2Pioneers have directly engaged more than 26,000 girls over the last seven years, encouraging them to take up STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects in their higher education and careers. 

In Australia, Okta has a longstanding partnership with Australian Business and Community Network (ABCN) to engage employees as volunteer mentors, supporting students from low socio-economic backgrounds to develop confidence and skills vital to thriving in the workplace of the future.

The digital transition does not have to be an unequal one. Technology firms across APAC have an opportunity to support non-profits and their wider communities with their resources, expertise, and values. We are excited about what the future holds for the region.