You’re using Ubuntu in your NGO?

When Ubuntu was first announced, I was intrigued by what Ubuntu meant and the explanation “I am what I am because of who we all are” describes best what my whole Ubuntu experience has been like since then. It very much was and very much still is the spirit of helping and sharing.

At UDS in Barcelona I want us to have a session about the use of Ubuntu in NGOs to think a bit more about what is needed from Ubuntu and what further ideas we can think of.

For the session I’d like to have your input.

Do you have experience with the topic? Do you make use of Ubuntu in your NGO? Where and how do you use it there? Are there things you’re struggling with?

Please drop me an email or leave a comment below. Thanks. 🙂

Update: The question came up a couple of times, so: instead of using NGO (Non-governmental organisation), I should probably have said charitable organisation.

  • jimcooncat

    For us folks in USA, I was trying to find the appropriate equivalent of “NGO”. Wikipedia tells me that NGO means “Non-governmental organization”.

    Would this be like a:
    Charity (in US, that’s 501(c)3)
    Business League, aka Trade Association (501(c)6)
    Trade Union, aka Labour Union?
    Small Business, that is, for-profit?

    If so, I can be of help. Our company acts as staff for charities and business leagues (as well as some small business endeavours).

    • Sorry, I could have been clearer.

      I was thinking of charitable organisations in general, how they make use of Ubuntu and make the world a better place by using it, spreading it and enabling people around the world. Also about what could be easier than it is right now.

  • Nick HS

    In Indonesia we deployed an LTSP setup in the main office to utilise a bunch of donated P3 machines, main issues we’re resolving user issues from abroad/remotely and maintenance, user training (teaching them to google for issues, using and getting in the necessary parts (large desktop towers do not travel well on planes). Ubuntu wise, a quick tutorial available on a default install (interactive?) would be most helpful, coupled with an easy remote administration tool that allows the users to see what the helpers is doing so they can fix it themselves in the future (and yes I know that is achievable with ssh and a bit of work).

  • Hi,

    I am responsible for IT at Amano Christian School in Zambia. I am by no means an expert – in fact I am a pastor! However we have just switched all our computers from Windows XP to Ubuntu 9.04. If I can be of any use, please let me know.


    • Nice! What are you using Ubuntu for? Did you run into any problems there? Anything that could have been easier? What are your expectations around it?

  • I work at the IT department of a portuguese NGO and I’m trying to introduce Ubuntu and other FOSS software. It’s not an easy task. Resistence to change from m$ is always around and the lack of will to learn can be a real trouble. My plan is to gradualy replace some workstations that don’t run any specific windows software. I’ll have a lot of convinving and training to do but I think in the end I’ll have goog results.

    • Cool! What do you intend to use Ubuntu for? What does your NGO do?

      • First I’ll set up a file and IM servers. Then in some of the new hardware that we aquire I’l install Ubuntu Desktop for some employes (reducing expenses with licencing) that require word processors, web browsing, email etc. We work with kids with at risk (drugs, minor crimes etc). We also run several IT centers for kids to get in contact with computers and internet among other areas. I would love to try to introduce Ubuntu to the kids setting up at least a ubuntu desktop at each location to check their reactions to it, the problem is games! But I plan to do it in a near future as well.

  • In the US non-profit world many organizations are tied into the proprietary Raiser’s Edge fund-raising database. [1] Tracking funding and other contacts is an important part of non-profit development work. There are a few open-source CRMs (constituent relationship management systems) that I’m aware of, but I don’t have any personal experience with them. CiviCRM [2] and SugarCRM [3] seem to be pretty popular, but they’re web-based.

    There is already a needs-packaging bug for SurgarCRM [4].

    I don’t have much experience working with server side stuff, but I’m extremely interested in how we can make Ubuntu a great platform for non-profit organizations. I can’t be at UDS, but I’d love to be involved with what ever comes out of these discussions. Please keep us updated!

    – Andrew


    • When I wrote the blog post, I was more thinking about “people who take out Ubuntu and share it with people who need it”, but this part of the organisation is very interesting and if we can improve it, that’d be great.

      • Got it. I know that some LoCo teams have partnered with NGOs to install Ubuntu on old computers to give out to their clients…

        But I’m afraid of people coming to this with the stance of “we use Windows at the office, but there’s this other thing that we can give away for free.” I don’t want people to think of Ubuntu as something only for people that can’t afford Windows.

        I think that making Ubuntu something that a NGO could use in all aspects of its work could be a great space to move into. Most employees at small NGOs don’t do anything they couldn’t do with an Ubuntu desktop, and adopting Ubuntu could be a great cost saver. It’s certain specialized tasks that keep people locked into other platforms. Also if the staff itself is using Ubuntu, they’d feel much more comfortable deploying and supporting it in an open community center, ect…

        • Right, Ubuntu should never be the “cheap windows” option. I think there’s a lot of places where it makes perfect sense to use Ubuntu and where it brings real benefits (apart from not paying licenses): classrooms, old PCs, custom solutions for whatever, not driving people into “software piracy”, perfect opportunity to learn and extend and share share share. 🙂

  • Took me a bit to figure out in my mind what does NGO stands for. Each time you use an acronym there will be people not knowing what it means if you don’t explain it.

    Me and some of the team mates from Freezing Moon NPO use Ubuntu 🙂

    We’re developing open source game; my/our take on making Linux a better alternative for the desktop.

    There’s way more stuff going on than you can currently see on our work-in-progress website, but I started looking for bloggers who are willing to make nice articles about Freezing Moon and our game projects 🙂

    • I just updated the blog post to explain what I’m talking about, thanks.

      All the best with your project!

      • (games*)

        Yeah, the update to first post is better now 🙂

  • We (IntraHealth) use Ubuntu in the systems we deploy and help support in Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzinia, etc.

    We’ve written a web-based application ()hosted on Launchpad) to manage HR information for medical providers (Doctors, Nurses, etc). Our work is USAID funded, so we work with client countries’ Ministries of Health and Nursing Councils in capacity-building projects.

    (Currently, I’m working packaging our iHRIS system so that it can easily be deployed on Debian and Ubuntu systems. I’m planning to try and get this included in Debian Med as well as Ubuntu.)

    Recently we’ve been talking about integrating our HRIS system with the open-source OpenMRS.that I eventually hope to package up for Debian Med.

  • Hi Daniel,

    Campact is using UBUNTU since 2 years. We have good experience at all, in setting up Notebooks. Since we are currently about 15 employes, we implemented the groupware server kolab (on the server platform of UNIVENTION). This caused some really strange effects (DataLoss) with the UBUNTU version of KDE-PIM (Kontact, KMail, etc.), since Kolab Groupware extentions from Kolab (enterprise Branch of KDE-PIM) is not implemented yet.

    We would recommend a UBUNTU Groupware Server with Ldap-UserManagement, nfs-mounts, mobile Clients and stable Groupware-Mail and Calendar Services.


  • Wow – I’m happy that you’re generally happy with Ubuntu. Do you think you could file a bug report kdepim?

    Keep up the good work with your team!

  • Amano is a school for Grades 1 through 12 and also sixth form, or for those not familiar with the UK system, children from six years old up to eighteen years (pre-university). Ubuntu is now being used for all the educational purposes for all grades, so from initial computer experience (most Zambian homes wouldn’t have a computer and of the few that do most would have no internet access, so most children come to the school ‘raw.’ Ubuntu has been no problem at all on the desktop. We added the kdeedu package and the Edubuntu desktop packages to the initial straight Ubuntu 9.04 installation (we had a few weeks with 8.10 prior to the Jaunty release). The students seem to like Ubuntu and we have no complaints.
    Ubuntu is also used for the admin computers so apart from privately owned laptops Windows is out. Most people have made the transistion well. The hardest issues were the change from Microsoft Publisher, although Scribus is appreciated by most, and the loss of Access. OO Base is not really for the casual user! Having a simple, easily accessible database program would have greatly helped.
    The network is still not up and running. We were using Windows Server 2003 which of course had all the usual virus problems but is easy to use with an understandable GUI. Ubuntu server is hard work for me and it doesn’t help when in forums you are told by geeks that if you can’t live without a GUI you should go back to Windows! Getting real help on the server side is very hard, and then getting advice on the client side is worse. I can easily set up XP Pro to require a network login and then access files through Windows Explorer. So far no-one suggests how network login works from the desktop with Ubuntu. Entering terminal commands and running scripts is not the way with children.
    Overall the transition to Ubuntu is very positive. Programs like Scribus and OO Writer are excellent, KTurtle has replaced Logos quite well and the other educational tools are getting increasing use.


    • For a “simple desktop database program”, you could try out glom – let me know what you think.

      What do you want to do with the Ubuntu Server exactly? Did you check out ?

      Other than that I’m really happy to read about what you and your team are doing and that Ubuntu works great for you.

      Keep up the good work!

  • For a little while now I’ve thought that it would be great if Canonical had an employee that would work in encouraging Ubuntu adoption in the NGO/nonprofit/charitable field. I think LoCos would have a vital role to play, but such a Canonical employee could have a lot more connections, which would be really useful when working with a LoCo to provide IT solutions for such organizations. Also, this employee would have a much better perspective on the most common show-stopping needs nonprofits have that Ubuntu could improve on.

    This position would be very valuable for Canonical IMHO, as the majority of growth in the IT field over the next 20 years will probably come from developing nations, and many nonprofits are strategically placed to have an influence on those markets.

  • Hi,

    I found that ubuntu is great for every desktop,laptop.I have used ubuntu,kubuntu both are superb ……..and it’s really that ubuntu stated “linux for human beings”

    ENJOY LINUX !!!!!

    p-root 🙂

  • Matthew

    You should be able to run Raiser’s Edge clients on Ubuntu using Wine (the windows emulator). May also be able to do the same for the server side.



    Im a masters degree student (to be specific NGO MANAGMENT) in Puerto Rico. I discovered UBUNTU a wile ago and my interest is making a project (as part of my masters degree) to make UBUNTU available to Non-profit Organizations here in my country. The most difficult part is the education about the system given that Windows is the absolute standard here as everywere in this planet. Im a home user of UBUNTU, willing to learn how UBUNTU is useful in a bussiness enviroment. Any help you can share will be appreciated.


  • David Jones

    I’m involved with our local Church and whenever I’m asked to prepare for services for display via a projector, I’ll use openoffice running on my ubuntu laptop, if anybody else does it, they’ll use powerpoint & Windows (because thats what they’re used to).

    One area I’ve found its easier to use my system is when we need to display part of a dvd as part of the service, on windows the only successful way found is to have the dvd in the drive & to use media player etc. With Ubuntu, I’m able to rip the section of video and embed it into the openoffice presentation.

    Its not much of a difference, but it helps to cut down on interruptions changing applications, starting a new one, going back to the original one etc.

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