The voluntary sectors embeddedness within the economy, the polity, and wider society
means that it is strategically located to impact on the nations economic
performance, on the political health and direction of the nation, and on the quality of
life of the nations citizenry. Information is both commodity and currency in the
economic, political, and social market place of ideas in which the voluntary sector
operates, and to which it contributes. Moreover, their embeddedness within the economic,
social and political fabric enmeshes voluntary organisations within a complex network of
institutional relationships emerging around key information flows. Information and
communication technologies (ICTs) mark out opportunities for voluntary organisations to
redefine these relationships, lending new significance to the sectors impact on
economy, polity, and society.
In examining the voluntary sector in the information age the research examines the
significance of ICTs applications in and around the voluntary sector. Firstly, the
research maps the uptake and application of ICTs within a sample of UK voluntary
organisations. Secondly, it seeks to examine the extent to which ICTs are used to re-shape
or to reinforce existing business relationships within these organisations.
Thirdly, the research examines the conditions under which ICTs are adopted [or not] by
The first phase of the research involves a large scale postal survey of voluntary
organisations within the UK. The survey spans a range of income sizes, fields and types of
activity. As well as providing insights regarding the use of information and communication
technologies in the UK voluntary sector, the postal survey serves as the basis for further
detailed case studies with exemplary organisations. Exemplary organisations are
defined as either high intensity users or innovative users of
Selected findings from the survey
The results which follow constitute selected findings from the survey of UK voluntary
organisations, with annual incomes of £250,000 to over £11 million. The findings are
important in signalling that key groups of organisations within the sector are embracing
new information and communication technologies [ICTs]. Equally importantly, they suggest
that significant proportions of the sector are failing to exploit the potential of new
ICTs in terms of improving existing practices within the organisation, or in relation to
the technologys potential to re-shape activities and relationships in innovative
Key statistics from the survey
- Extensiveness of computer networking
84% of respondents are using some form of computer networking, and a further 6% plan to
use computer networking within the next five years.
95.1% of those currently using computer networking also use fax technology. However, this
is expected to fall by 6% to 89.1% in the next five years.
- Mobile telephony>
68.9% of those currently using computer networking use mobile phones. This is expected to
rise by 0.2% to 69.1% in the next five years.
- External email
67.2% of those currently using computer networking applications are using external email.
This is expected to rise by 15.9%, to 83.1% in the next five years.
- Portable computing
64.8% of organisations use portable computing. This is expected to rise by 9.8%, to 74.6%
in the next five years.
53% of those currently using computer networking applications have websites. This is
expected to rise by 33.6%, to 86.6% in the next five years.
- Call centres>
Just 5.2% of organisations have call centres. However, this is expected almost to double
in the next five years, rising to 9%.
77.3% of those currently using computer networking applications use Microsoft software.
This is expected to drop by 4.3%, to 73.0% in the next five years.
17.2% of those currently using computer networking applications use Dell hardware. This is
expected to drop by 2.4%, to 14.8% in the next five years.
- Geographical Information Systems [GIS]
8.5% of those currently using computer networking use GIS. This is expected to increase by
8.2%, to 16.7% in the next five years.
- Geographical relocation of business functions
13.4% of those currently using computer networking use it to support the geographical
relocation of business functions. This is expected to rise by 13.1%, to 26.5% in the next
- Home based remote working
35.2% of those currently using computer networking use it to support home working. This is
expected to rise by 26.3%, to 61.5% in the next five years.
- Electronic data interchange [EDI]
23.0% of those currently using computer networking use EDI applications. This is expected
to increase by 11.7%, to 34.7% in the next five years.
- According to those currently using computer networking, the greatest
benefits to derive from its application are:
Improved communication - 24.3%
Improved information management 20.2%
Improved performance 20.5%
Improved working practices 7.4%.
ICTs supported innovations
- A relatively small number of organisations report telematics
Changes in information management 7.4%
Changes in working practices 4.4%
Changes in client services 4.1%
Changes in communication processes 3.6%
Changes in internal governance practices 1.6%
Some illustrative comments from the questionnaire
- We now have better information analysis and better use of that information.
- We are able to react to situations as they, arise with greater flexibility.
- Using the internet [website, newsgroup, email] we can involve users in policy formation
- Corporate information can be received and discussed by interested parties at remote
locations using electronic mail.
- Informed decision making can be devolved from national to regional centres.
- We now have a much better picture of our supporters enabling us to tailor our
approaches to them.
Hard copies of the report are available from
Centre for the Study of Telematics and Governance [CSTAG]
Department of Management
Glasgow Caledonian University
Glasgow G4 0BA.