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Virtual tech volunteers step up to support critical digital services

As the pandemic forces a new way of working, learning, and doing business, the need for digital-first services―and technical expertise to support those services―has never been greater. In this episode of The Element, learn how tech volunteers are filling gaps at nonprofit organizations struggling under the weight of the pandemic.

Volunteers have always been the backbone of nonprofit work, and in the wake of COVID-19, that has never been more true—particularly when it comes to providing the technology and support needed to keep critical digital services running.

As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the economy, education, and communities―and shutdowns force an entirely new way of working―tech experts are stepping up virtually, offering their time and knowledge to help support healthcare, distance learning, and many other essential digital services.

"During a global pandemic, it's never been more important to have these digital-first services, and they are experiencing extreme surges in traffic and users, which is why virtual volunteering is so critical," says Shannon Farley, co-founder and executive director of Fast Forward, which invests in entrepreneurs who are using technology to accelerate social impact.

From ensuring cloud access and security to troubleshooting hardware and devices, tech volunteers are filling gaps across all types of services. For example, distance learning platform CommonLit, which is growing by more than 55,000 users per day, relies on tech volunteers to help with customer service and deployment of services, Farley says. And at Medic Mobile, programmers are contributing open source code for software that helps community workers in remote areas provide pre- and postnatal care, vaccines, and other basic healthcare services.

The power of partnership

With 50 percent of nonprofits operating with less than one month of cash reserves, many weren't prepared to deal with an event of this scale, notes Kathy Gu, program director at the HPE Foundation. And at a time when "productivity is so dependent on tech," she adds, many haven't been able to make the necessary investments to update their technology to efficiently deliver the services needed.

That's where partnerships and collaboration with nonprofits are proving key.

Companies, teams, and individuals are coming up with unique ways to address these challenges: contributing compute power, opening patents related to diagnosing and treating COVID-19, providing products and services for free, and much more.

Listen to Farley, Gu, and host professor Sally Eaves, founder of Aspirational Futures, as they explore the ways virtual tech volunteers are helping to deliver the critical services needed today―and how these frontline heroes are shaping what volunteerism may look like in the future.


Listen to other episodes of HPE's The Element Podcast

Sally Eaves on building the future with ethical tech

Texas Children's Hospital's Myra Davis on leadership, innovation, and the challenge of looking at things differently

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.