This survey was to understand local NGOs' current demand and usage of IT applications, as well as their views and expectation on the government subsidizing system regarding IT infrastructure development in the social service sector. The key findings are highlighted as follows, please refer to the respective frequency tables for more details (Appendix II). It should be noted that, figures reported hereafter have been rounded up to the nearest integer after considering the second decimal place, hence some figures may appear not in agreement with those in Appendix II which are presented in one decimal place. For the questions repeated from the 2009 Survey, t-tests were used to detect any significant changes over the past two years.
I) Basic IT Infrastructure and Application
The survey began by investigating how many PC or laptop these agencies provided to their staff. Results showed that the average number of PCs and laptops provided to the staff by the NGOs interviewed was 165 (standard error: 39.4) in the past year (Table 3). A steady development was observed as this average number of PCs and laptops has increased by 44 when compared to the findings in 2009 survey (mean=121, standard error: 22.4; table 3).
Practically all the interviewed NGOs could access to internet with their computers, among them, 89% said all their computers had internet access, while the rest with an average of 77% of their computers had internet access (Tables 4 and 5).
In terms of the up-to-dateness, average speaking, 50% (standard error: 3.4%) of these computers were purchased or donated within 3 years prior to the interview, 37% (standard error: 3.7%) were old computers installed more than 3 years ago, while 13% (standard error: 2.5%) were old computers purchased or donated more than 3 years ago but were upgraded within the recent 3 years. The latter two figures were tested to be significantly lower than 2009's figures. For detailed figures, please refer to Tables 6 to 9 in Appendix II.
The survey also discovered that, staff of just more than half of the NGOs needed to work remotely using computers outside their offices / premises (51%), while the remaining needed not (49%). Among the 38 NGOs whose staff needed to work remotely, almost three-quarters had the required IT system / facilities to support them (73%, Tables 10 and 11).
When asked the kind(s) of IT software application system that their organizations were using with options read out by interviewers, results showed that nearly all NGOs were using 「internal / external communication (e.g. Email / IM)」, accounted for 97% of the sample. 「Financial Management System」 and 「Membership Management System」 formed the next tier, with a respective proportion of 86% and 62%. Other systems that were not commonly used included 「Human Resource Management System」 (45%), 「Knowledge Management System / Document Management System」 (38%), 「Donor Management System」 (36%) and 「Volunteer Management System」 (31%). Moreover, about one-fifth mentioned some other systems (18%, Table 12).
A new question introduced this year asked which IT software application system(s) the agencies were considering to upgrade. Nearly half opted for 「Membership Management System」 (49%), followed by 「Human Resource Management System」 and 「Volunteer Management System」 with both 36%. Other options included 「Knowledge Management System / Document Management System」 (31%), 「Financial Management System」 and 「Internal / external communication (e.g. Email / IM)」 (30%), and 「Donor Management System」 (26%). Nevertheless, about a quarter pointed out that they were not considering any upgrade at this moment (23%, Table 13).
Excluded those who were not considering any system / software upgrading, 57 respondents were further asked what factors that would affect their decisions when considering to buy new IT system or to upgrade the existing system. Prompted with options, nearly all respondents regarded 「price / cost of the new system」 (95%) as one of the factors. Other commonly picked factors included 「functions and benefits brought by the new system」 (89%), 「compatibility with existing hardware and software」 (82%), 「technical support needed」 (81%) and 「time and other preparation needed (e.g. training)」 (77%). Another 14% named other reasons, please refer to Table 14 in Appendix II.
When asked to rank the factors, 53% put 「price / cost of the new system」 as the first priority, while 「functions and benefits brought by the new system」 received 39% recognition. Other prescribed responses gained less than 5% only in this regard (Table 15).
The survey continued to ask respondents which kind of measures their organization had for protecting the servers / application system. 「Anti-virus」 and 「firewall」 were the two most popular measures taken, with a respective proportion of 91% and 82%. 「Physical security」 (58%), 「daily backup」 (55%), 「UPS / uninterrupted power supply」 (51%), and 「insurance」 (46%) formed the next tier. Meanwhile, around one-tenth NGOs also used 「bi-weekly / monthly backup」 (14%) and 「other measures」 for protection (9%, Table 16).
II) IT Funding and Subsidies
The next section began with enquiring if the agencies had set aside a specific amount of resources in the past year for improving IT facilities or increasing its applicability. Results showed that half of the sample had (50%) while the other half had not (49%), and a very small proportion of respondents did not know (1%, Table 17). As compared to the figures in the 2009 survey, significantly more agencies now would set aside budget for IT development (50% in 2011 vs 33% in 2009, Table 17).
Among the 36 NGOs which had set aside a specific amount of resources for IT development, the average percentage of reserve to their total expenditure was 3.9% (standard error: 1.06%). Nonetheless, as high as 39% of respondents claimed ignorance to the amount (Table 18).
When further probed the major source of this expenditure, 86% of the 36 NGO representatives pointed out that it was allocated from the 「organization's recurrent expenditure」, and 59% attributed it to 「IT development grant / subsidy from the Government (e.g. SWDF)」. Other respondents opted for 「project-based funding」 (32%), 「charity foundation (e.g. The Community Chest, The Hong Kong Jockey Club)」 (27%) and 「donation from business sector」 (24%). Half of one-tenth did not know (5%, Table 19).
As for the most major funding source of the IT expenditure, 「organization's recurrent expenditure」 came first with 54%, followed by 「IT development grant / subsidy from the Government (e.g. SWDF)」 (40%) and then 「charity foundation (e.g. The Community Chest, The Hong Kong Jockey Club)」 (6%) at a great distance. No respondents reported the 「project-based funding」 and 「donation from business sector」 as the major funding source (Table 20).
All respondents were then asked if their organization would set aside a specific amount of resources for IT development for the year of 2011/12. Results showed that 59% gave a positive response, 36% said the opposite, whereas the remaining 5% did not have a clue (Table 21).
With regard the conductive mode of subsidy for IT development within the social welfare sector, all prompted modes received more than 50% support from all respondents. 「IT development grant / subsidy from the Government (e.g. SWDF)」 topped the list, as chosen by as many as 90% of the sample, followed at a distance by 「donation from business sector」 (76%) and 「organization's recurrent expenditure」 (70%). 「Charity foundation (e.g. The Community Chest, The Hong Kong Jockey Club)」 and 「project-based funding」 came last, with 65% and 54% support respectively (Table 22).
With respect to the most conductive mode, majority of respondents regarded 「IT development grant / subsidy from the Government (e.g. SWDF)」 as most conductive (60%), 「organization's recurrent expenditure」 (18%) and 「charity foundation (e.g. The Community Chest, The Hong Kong Jockey Club)」 (11%) came next at a large distance. 「Donation from business sector」 and 「project-based funding」 received no more than 10% support each (Table 23).
Then, interviewers read out two different modes of subsidy, namely 「a lump sum」 of IT fund or subsidy with larger amount of money and 「continuous IT fund or subsidy」 with smaller amount of money. 41% considered the former was more suitable for the operation and development of the social welfare organizations, while 46% the latter. About one in seven thought there was 「no difference between the two modes」 (14%, Table 24).
Respondents opted for 「a lump sum」 fund mainly because the subsidy could provide them with 「more choices of facilities」 (57%) and there was 「no need to purchase / upgrade IT system / facilities every year」 (57%), while those preferred 「a continuous subsidy」 was because they 「could have continuous development / regular upgrade of IT system / facilities」 (65%). For detailed figures, please refer to Tables 25 and 26 in Appendix II.
III) Evaluation of Overall IT Performance
Prompted with a list of prescribed options, most respondents considered 「software and system development」 (72%) the most important IT related duty to their organization but did not have the resources / time / manpower to handle or execute, followed by 「training」 (68%), 「providing technical support to other colleagues」 (65%) and 「strategic planning, including grasping latest IT information」 (53%). Meanwhile, a respective of 49% and 36% regarded 「internal coordination, collecting information and opinions」 and 「communicating with suppliers」 as such duties (Table 27).
Then, all NGO representatives were asked to evaluate their satisfaction level, on a scale of 0 to 10 marks, towards the basic IT infrastructure (e.g. software / hardware) and current status of IT application of their organization, where the higher the score, the more they were satisfied. Majority gave 「6-7」 to both aspects, and both accounted for 58% of the total sample. The average marks for both were 6.1 (standard error: 0.16), which were significantly lower than 2009's figures (Tables 28 to 29).
Using the same scale, all respondents were asked to rate how much their agencies were in need to improve the current IT facilities, where 0 represents no improvement was needed at all and 10 represents improvement was urgently needed. Similarly, most respondents gave 「6-7」 marks (38%), meaning improvement was quite urgently needed, leading to an average score of 6.6 (standard error: 0.21, Table 30).
Another rating question was about the sufficiency of resources used for improving IT facilities allocated by their organization, where 0 represents totally insufficient and 10 represents very sufficient. Although those who gave 「6-7」 marks accounted for the largest proportion (39%), the overall mean score was 5.0 only (standard error: 0.25), meaning half-half (Table 31).
What was/were the biggest challenge(s) related to IT development in local NGOs? Without prompting, 「no IT specialist / knowledge」 (66%) topped the list as cited by two-thirds of the respondents, and closely followed by 「not sufficient fund」 (65%). Other less frequently cited challenges included 「need to improve staff's IT knowledge」 (15%), 「IT development was too fast, could not catch up」 (8%), 「need software that was tailor made for social welfare sector」 (5%) and 「senior management did not think there was a (immediate) need for IT development」 (5%). Meanwhile, only a small proportion claimed that there were no challenges at all (3%, Table 32).
IV) Awareness of 「Cloud Computing」
In the last part of the survey, all respondents were asked if they had heard of the term 「Cloud Computing」 before the interview, nearly three quarters gave a positive answer (72%), while the remaining one quarter admitted that they had never heard of it (28%, Table 33).
The survey went on by probing all NGO representatives, regardless of their awareness, whether they thought 「Cloud Computing」 could effectively solve the problems of IT development that their agency was currently facing. Results revealed that the opinions were split where 30% held a positive view, 39% thought the opposite, 7% thought it could solve only part of the problems, and about a quarter opted for 「don't know / hard to say」 (24%, Table 34).
Lastly, if there was a territory-wide centralized management system for donors and volunteers, that is, the social welfare organizations involved in the system can share / obtain data and information on an internet platform, respondents were asked if their organizations would be willing to participate, nearly two-third said 「yes」 (64%), 9% held an opposite view, and the remaining quarter were undecided at the moment (27%, Table 35).
V) In-depth Analysis
In-depth analysis showed that the larger the size of the organization, the more likely its representative would have heard of 「Cloud Computing」 prior to the interview (see Summary Table 1). Besides, those who had heard of 「Cloud Computing」 were more likely to believe it could effectively solve their problems in IT development. Moreover, IT specialists were more likely than non-IT specialists to believe this technology could effectively solve their problems (see Summary Table 2).
Note: organizations were categorized by their annual expenditure, those with annual expenditure below $1 million were categorized as 「small size organizations」, those with annual expenditure between $1 million and $10 million were categorized as 「medium size organizations」, and those with more than $10 million were categorized as 「large size organizations」.
A steady development in IT infrastructure is observed among the NGOs interviewed, with more PCs and laptops in general this year than in 2009, but satisfactory level towards various IT related aspects has slightly dropped as compared to the 2009 survey. Furthermore, representatives thought their agency was quite in need to improve the current IT facilities, with half-half sufficiency of resources provided.
More than half organizations have not fully utilized IT to help manage their operations. Many organizations apply no other security measures except basic anti-virus software. As a matter of fact, IT software application systems and security measures can be of a much wider usage in order to boost the development in the sector. It is not unexpected that 「price / cost of the new system」 is the chief consideration for agencies to have any advancement.
More organizations have set aside a specific amount of resources for improving IT facilities or increasing its applicability from their recurrent expenditure. However, most prefer to have 「IT development grant / subsidy from the Government (e.g. SWDF)」, and they also think such fund is the most conducive for the sector. Both 「lump sum」 or 「continuous」 funding modes got supporters, depending on the types and scales of organizations. The Government should build in more flexibility in future planning.
With the lack of resources / time / manpower, local social welfare organizations could not handle or execute 「software and system development」, and the biggest challenges identified in this survey are 「no IT specialist / knowledge」 and 「no sufficient fund」.
Last but not least, representatives without IT background generally have no idea how 「Cloud Computing」 can tie in with their organization's future development, the big discrepancy with that of IT specialists reconfirms the importance of hiring IT specialists to handle IT. In addition, most representatives welcome the setting up of a territory-wide centralized donor and volunteer management system and they are willing to participate in this system.