Our friends at NTEN just released the results of their Digital Adoption survey, which looks at how organizations address the challenges of internet access and use by staff members and the communities they serve. Introducing the report, Leana Mayzlina writes, “The internet is truly a required service for any organization to be successful in 2018. But what if your programs are meant to serve people who are among the 60 million Americans who don’t have internet access at home?”
It’s an excellent question, and one that’s easily overlooked by those of us who spend the lion’s share of our days online. How often do you use the internet for work in a typical day? How about for communication, social media, entertainment, research, shopping, trip planning, dating, or any of the other ways we’ve become reliant upon it? It’s become a widely used tool for many people, which means it’s critical for nonprofits, but there’s a risk of leaving some people behind.
According to the NTEN report, the good news is that digital adoption seems to be increasing. The bad news is that there continue to be gaps among specific communities.
In related news, the Senate just voted to preserve Net Neutrality. The vote goes against the recent FCC decision to end it, which would fundamentally change how we use the internet. But it still needs to clear the House—which means Net Neutrality is still in jeopardy. The Senate vote may be a sign that public outcry is being heard, so if this issue is important to you—and we think it should be—please let your representatives know.
What else is on our minds this month at Idealware?
You know all those emails you’ve been getting from sites and services you subscribe saying they’re changing the way they handle your data because they “value your privacy?” Yeah, about that—I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that they’ve begun to value your privacy at exactly the same time the new GDPR laws go into effect requiring it. We’ve been covering the new GDPR laws, and we’re not alone. Chloe Green offers an infographic providing a last-minute GDPR checklist for nonprofits and charities.
USB drives, SD cards, flash drives, and similar portable devices are cheap and convenient—but are they secure? Here’s a vote against. According to Boing Boing and PC Mag, IBM recently banned them from every one of its offices worldwide as a security measure. It’s worth reading these articles and considering how you handle similar devices in your own office.
Last month Microsoft announced changes to its nonprofit discount and donation program designed at improving its offerings to better serve smaller nonprofits. “The shift also reflects a larger, global trend to move IT infrastructure to a cloud-based model,” Tech Soup writes in a post about the changes, adding that “this shift has affected what TechSoup offers to nonprofits.” Follow the link to see what you need to know.
Also at TechSoup: “The first step toward building a data culture is to make data accessible to everyone in your organization. Analytics dashboards are a great way to whittle your huge mountain of data down to a manageable—and an actionable—molehill.”
Google overhauled the web version of its popular email. Have you noticed? If not, you might not be one of those to whom it has been rolled out. J. D. Biersdorfer has a roundup of what the new version offers, and tips for how you can try out the new version even if you haven’t been formally invited.
TechCrunch reviews a new electronic device called Lynq, a peanut-shaped gadget that uses a combination of GPS and kinetic positioning to tell you how far away—and in what direction—linked units are. Possible consumer uses range from backcountry skiing to festival going to keeping track of your children at a county fair or zoo. Our Executive Director, Karen Graham, sent me this link with a question about whether there might be interesting uses for nonprofits, and the following note: “If someone could figure out a way to make these for under $20, that would be awesome.”
Karen also sent me this Verge article about Google’s recent live demo of Google Assistant’s new ability to make phone calls on your behalf. CEO Sundar Pichai played a recording of a phone call the Assistant made to a hair salon. According to the story, “The voice sounded incredibly natural; the person on the other end had no idea they were talking to a digital AI helper. Google Assistant even dropped in a super casual “mmhmmm” early in the conversation.” If machines can make calls imitating humans, what are the implications—and ethical implications—for nonprofits, and for humanity?
“Creepy or cool?” Karen asked. My vote is for creepy.
At Marketplace, Molly Wood and Stephanie Hughes wonder if a machine should have to tell you if it’s a machine. The folks at RadioLab had a similar question about other types of bots, which are becoming increasingly able to “pass” for humans in text messaging interactions. “Seven years ago chatbots…were noticeably robotic and at their most malicious seemed only capable of scamming men looking for love online. Today, the chatbot landscape is wildly different. From election interference to spreading hate, chatbots have become online weapons.” RadioLab gives them the Turing Test—Alan Turing’s famous A.I. challenge—onstage with the help of a live audience in this engaging podcast.
See you next month…
P.S. Thank you to everyone who sent me suggestions for this month’s roundup of links. As always, if you come across something you think would be a good fit for the Best of the Web, send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.