People with purpose: Making a positive difference with technology

Posted on 09 Apr 2024

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia

NFP charity donate technology

For Infoxchange CEO David Spriggs, technology and social justice should be part of the same conversation.

What is your background in the NFP sector?

My background is rooted in both the tech sector and a deep passion for community engagement.

I had a love of technology from a very early age. So, I was fortunate that in the early 1980s, my father brought home one of the first IBM PCs from work.

I was in primary school then and fell in love with it. I taught myself programming and just geeked out.

So, I knew for a long time that I wanted to work in tech and studied information technology at university, but I always yearned to work in the community sector.

Infoxchange CEO David Spriggs.

What attracted you to Infoxchange?

Infoxchange is a not-for-profit social enterprise with the vision of technology for social justice.

The organisation's founder, Andrew Mahar, laid out this vision more than 30 years ago, and it continues to drive everything we do today.

It may be obvious now to think about how we might use technology to help solve social issues, but 30 years ago, that was a groundbreaking vision.

I've been with Infoxchange for more than 15 years now, and it has been an incredibly fulfilling journey.

When I first joined, my wife said she had never seen me so happy to get up and go to work in the morning. I'm pleased to say that this is still absolutely true.

It's the perfect role for me at the intersection of technology and the community sector.

How would you describe the organisation's purpose?

Our vision is technology for social justice.

We're all about empowering communities through the use of technology and helping the not-for-profit sector have more impact in their work through the use of technology.

The Infoxchange Ask Izzy app is designed to help people in need.

We primarily focus on small to medium-sized not-for-profits that often struggle with technology. Last year, we provided more than 35,000 NFPs with discounted or donated technology products, client case management systems, managed IT services and capacity building through our Digital Transformation Hub.

We also directly support community members, often through cross-sector partnerships. One of our most well-known examples is Ask Izzy, a mobile website that helps people in need find relevant and local support services across Australia.

That might be somebody who is experiencing or at risk of homelessness, somebody who is looking for where they can find a free meal locally, mental health, family violence and a wide range of support services.

In the past year alone, Ask Izzy has responded to more than seven million searches for help, connecting people with services across our communities.

"We're all about empowering communities through the use of technology and helping the not-for-profit sector have more impact in their work through the use of technology."

Why is it essential that NFPs keep abreast of technology trends?

Not-for-profits can amplify their impact and drive positive social change by embracing innovation responsibly.

At a minimum, it's becoming essential for not-for-profits to be aware of the opportunities and threats in the technology landscape to remain relevant, connected with their community and supporters, and efficient and secure in their operations.

In recent years, we've witnessed a rapid acceleration in digital technology, particularly in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), data and cybersecurity.

These trends present both opportunities and challenges for not-for-profits.

For example, AI has immense potential for driving efficiencies and streamlining operations. However, not-for-profits must approach AI implementation cautiously, ensuring ethical considerations and data privacy are prioritised.

Our Digital Technology in the Not-For-Profit Sector Report has been tracking these trends and the use of technology in the sector for nearly 10 years now. The report provides good insights into the sector's challenges and opportunities and how things have changed.

We sincerely appreciate the thousands of organisations that spend the time each year to complete the survey that informs our report.

Tell us briefly about the upcoming Technology for Social Justice Conference 2024 and the Australian Not-For-Profit Technology Awards 2024.

We made a big decision this year to rebrand the conference (what was the Connecting Up conference for 20 years) to the Technology for Social Justice Conference.

The event continues to provide insights and inspiration for not-for-profit, charity and social enterprise leaders to enable them to enhance their impact with the safe and effective use of technology – and with a focus on the intersection between technology and social justice issues.

We're excited about this years conference, which will be held over two days and bring together inspiring sector leaders.

This event isn't all about tech geeks; this is the sector coming together to understand the opportunities that can transform social justice and social impact more broadly through the safe use of technology.

A big part of the conference is networking with leaders and technology specialists.

Day one will be keynotes, fireside chats, and panel discussions on cyber security, the safe and effective use of data, artificial intelligence for NFPs, digital transformation, and digital inclusion.

Day two will consist of three streams of masterclasses on our most requested topics: digital marketing and fundraising, data, and cybersecurity. We have a fantastic lineup of speakers and facilitators.

As part of the conference, we run the annual Australian Not-For-Profit Technology Awards, an excellent opportunity to recognise the often-unsung heroes in our sector, working tirelessly day in and day out as staff or volunteers.

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