Asian social sector faces technological challenges
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Asian social sector faces technological challenges

Some 70% of social sector organisations inadequately prepared for cyberthreats, study finds

Despite the rapid digitisation of the Asian social sector, social delivery organisations (SDOs) are struggling to keep up with technological changes because of inadequate access to digital infrastructure, lack of capacity and insufficient donor support, according to the Doing Good Index 2024.

As technology continues to advance, a new type of digital divide is emerging that hampers the ability of the social sector to deliver products and services to the most vulnerable communities, said the Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society (CAPS), which created the index.

The index was based on insights from 2,183 social sector organisations and 140 experts across 17 economies in the region.

Researchers found 95% of the organisations surveyed use digital technology to carry out their work, with 88% intending to increase their use of digital technology in the next two years. However, many lack the necessary resources to take full advantage of the benefits of digital technology and protect themselves against the associated risks.

Some 59% of surveyed SDOs said their staff lack the skills to use digital tools effectively, and 70% do not have, or are unaware of, an organisational cybersecurity strategy.

When asked about their organisation's top technology needs, hardware, operational software and staff training emerged as the top three.

According to the index, access to operational funding is essential for organisations to respond adequately to the rapidly changing digital landscape. Almost half of SDOs report their donors do not fund digital technology and IT costs, indicating a glaring funding gap.

"Asia's social sector is unprepared for technological change amid the rapid digitisation in the region. We believe philanthropy can play a crucial role in meeting digital technology needs," said Dr Ruth Shapiro, co-founder and chief executive of CAPS.

"Donors should recognise that challenges in securing operational funding hinder the organisations they support from investing in digital technology that could improve their productivity and impact.

"Operational funding and in-kind donations can help SDOs invest in capacity building to fully leverage digital technologies to meet their mission of helping our communities."

In addition to technological challenges, the Doing Good Index notes how economies across the region may be enabling environments for the giving and receiving of private social investment, such as philanthropy and corporate social responsibility.

Following the tumultuous Covid-19 years, there has been little change in the last two years across the four sub-indices of the Doing Good Index: regulations, tax and fiscal policy, ecosystem and procurement.

Funding for the social sector has remained mostly unchanged. Domestic funding (from individuals, foundations and companies) remains the main source for SDOs across Asia, comprising 64% by proportion of the average organisation's budget.

Government funding (20%) and foreign funding (15%) as a proportion of SDO budgets have also remained steady.

Funding shortfalls, staffing challenges, and staff upskilling/reskilling are the top challenges facing the social sector. Almost three-quarters (73%) of SDOs struggle to recruit staff, and 69% report difficulty retaining them.

Governments continue to send mixed messages on social sector regulations. While some governments embrace the social sector as a partner, others are showing a hot-and-cold approach, at times encouraging its growth and at others implementing overly burdensome regulations and restrictions.

"With ongoing crises ranging from regional conflicts to climate change, Asia faces an uphill battle to create a more equitable future," said Ronnie Chan, co-founder and chair of CAPS.

"The good news is with increasing private wealth, Asia has a unique opportunity to leap ahead and implement policies and programmes to solve community problems."

To download the Doing Good Index 2024, visit

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