The Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) was founded in 1965 as a humanitarian relief organisation and auxiliary to the government in times of disaster and war. As a voluntary organisation, KRCS operates through a network of eight regions and 62 branches spread across the country, raising awareness about issues that may affect the Kenyan public and operating to alleviate human suffering and save lives.
Over the years, KRCS has consistently explored innovative practices to make it more effective in the delivery of its programmes, reduce donor dependency and be the first responder in times of emergency.
A plan for a more effective IT system
One of the ways in which it is working to achieve these goals is by implementing IT infrastructure that allows for easy collaboration and communication from anywhere. Effective communication during times of disaster and war is essential, allowing for fast-moving decision making and ultimately impacting the number of lives saved.
“We’ve tried a variety of services, such as online storage, free email and in-house hosting. However, we found this limiting in terms of the number of users, the amount of storage it allowed for, and the lack of backup. Our decision-making process was also delayed due to the time it took to send and receive information in the field,” says Anthony Mwangi, Head of Strategic Partnerships and Corporate Affairs at KRCS.
This began to change in 2015 when Microsoft staff volunteers helped the KRCS IT team develop a three-year business plan. In addition, Microsoft donated services such as Windows, Office 365, Sharepoint and Azure to the organisation.
“The fact that we received the technology as a donation helped us experiment with the various solutions and how they impact what we do,” explains Mwangi.
Faster decision making, more streamlined processes
KRCS now has over 500 staff members using Office 365, giving them access to a 50GB email inbox and 1TB of online storage, and enabling them to share information and make use of Skype for Business for more effective communication. They use Sharepoint to share reports and documents from the field to the regional head offices, which enables near real-time decision-making workflows and ensures a faster response even in remote areas. They also use Sharepoint to monitor and evaluate, which is helping the organisation move away from paper-based reporting across its 62 branches.
Additionally, KRCS is in the process of migrating to Dynamics 365 to manage its more than 100,000 volunteers. The organisation also received an Azure grant from Microsoft, enabling it to host its app in and move its workloads to the cloud. This has helped reduce the costs of infrastructure and allows for more effective disaster recovery and replication of local servers across 47 counties in Kenya.
“We’ve seen a significant improvement in our communication and collaboration across our branches, and the management of our systems and processes is much more streamlined,” comments Mwangi. “This impacts everything from our IT costs, to our efficiency during crises such as the Horn of Africa famine, and even the way we run our ambulance and hospitality services.”
More than just software
In addition to Microsoft’s help in developing a business plan and building the IT infrastructure of KRCS, the technology company has assisted the organisation with TV White Spaces Connectivity for one of its branches. Microsoft and its employees have also made donations in support of KRCS’s work relating to the Horn of Africa drought and other disaster efforts.
“Having Microsoft as a partner is so valuable for us,” says Mwangi. “Not only are their products and services world class and easy to deploy, but their employees have also been supportive in so many ways. I would recommend Microsoft’s offering to any NGO wanting to reduce operational costs and improve its service to the community.”