Save the Children UK CIO on digital transformation and encouraging girls into STEM

Save the Children's Karl Hoods discusses his role as a governor at three schools, and the current CIO challenges in the charity sector

By Edward Qualtrough
Nov. 8, 2016

Back at Save the Children, CIO Hoods is keen to develop the organisation's innovation agenda and create space for the team to "play around with new technology" and find tools which will eventually be a good fit for the business. Hoods described these programmes and this exploratory thinking and researching space as the sort of things that often get missed out of annual strategic plans.

Save the Children is also liaising with innovation specialists and accelerator programmes about how it can tap into the SME and startup markets and not have to necessarily rely on the larger and more traditional consulting organisations. With lots of discussion about disruption in the third sector, Hoods said that it is important to keep an up with what is disrupting other industries like banking and retail, which could be used by charities.

"We don't want to end up doing just what everyone else in the sector is doing," Hoods said. "And we are not looking for inspiration necessarily from other charity sector CIOs or we end up focusing on the same set of problems."

Emerging technologies

There is a big opportunity to use some more emerging technologies at Save the Children and across the NPO ecosystem, Hoods explained, the CIO having recently sent notes to the organisation's board about blockchain and the sort of use cases which could benefit charities particularly with regard to the transfer of cash.

He said: "The whole blockchain area, and humanitarian blockchain, is really interesting for me - how do we harness that across a global movement?"

Aside from ledger technologies, Hoods said that chatbots, machine learning and smarter data collection are being looked at. He also said that smart labelling, the Internet of Things, wearables and sensoring could provide Save the Children with improved responses in disaster zones, although with some of the countries they were operating in it was important to make sure security was robust and the technology was not something that could put the organisation's staff, or those it was trying to help, in more danger.

Save the Children UK is finishing off an infrastructure and applications refresh, moving over to Windows 10 and Office 2016, as well as moving to a more mobile hotdesking setup with documents stored in the cloud and end-user computing secured through mobile device management. Having deployed a new Oracle HR system in the UK to move away from a burning platform, Hoods will also oversee rolling the system out globally starting with Italy and then Sweden.

It is with these implementations where Hoods believes CIOs in the sector have a broader responsibility to use their experience and influence with vendors to help other organisations. As well as working with universities looking at data science, machine learning and IP they can open source across the sector, Hoods believes it is in their experience in things like Microsoft implementations, and perhaps one day with the help of their apprentice-cum-graduates, they will have the resources as well as the expertise to help more in the sector.

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