Harnessing Skype to Link the UK and Uganda
Alongside Africa is a tiny nonprofit: half a dozen people generally working from their homes in the UK to support an even smaller handful based across Uganda. The nonprofit's mission and ethos is very specific. Rather than donating aid to the communities that it serves, it works to provide opportunities for people to take charge of their own development, with a view to creating self-sustaining communities in which everybody is able to make a living.
Lawrance Titterton is the charity's chairperson. "We're a very small organization, and funding is extremely limited," he says. "Nevertheless, we know that at any one time we might have 600 or 700 people reliant on us. By providing these opportunities, our impact spreads very widely."
Alongside Africa recently received a selection of Skype credit vouchers as a donation via Technology Trust, TechSoup Global's UK partner. Adoption of Skype has addressed what has always been a huge challenge — and expense — for the organization: the practicalities of communication.
"We use Skype extensively," explains Lawrance. "There are very few landlines in Uganda, and it is very expensive to call from here to mobiles. Traditionally we would be spending a couple of hours a week on these international calls."
Lawrance continues: "Now we frequently use Skype-to-Skype or, where Internet access is poor, Skype-to-Mobile. This can be for board meetings or group discussions; for example, I was using it to talk to our finance manager in Uganda last night, and we have a virtual meeting planned for today. This facility is invaluable; we couldn't do without it."
The donated credit vouchers will in effect release the equivalent amount in cash to be used towards the nonprofit's latest initiative on the ground. "We're setting up a new street children program, and this gets us a little bit closer to being able to start the project," says Lawrance. "Normally our communication costs have to come out of the charity's main funds, or even have to be borne by our volunteers themselves."