How International NGO Uses Cloud Tools to Advocate for the Poor

NEWS ANALYSIS: Oxfam is an international confederation of 20 organizations working together with partners in more than 90 countries. It's now using new-gen tools such as Workplace for Facebook, Okta for security and Aware by Wiretap for governance and compliance ahead of GDPR.


People sometimes forget that Facebook isn’t only in the social networking advertising business. For about four years, it’s been making a concerted effort to develop productivity tools for the enterprise, and the investments are starting to pay off.

Its frontline package of business apps, Workplace by Facebook, was launched in October 2016 and has made some impressive inroads into the market, helping Facebook diversify in a big way. It’s turned out to be a very popular item among companies large and small.

Box, a company that started out around the same time (2004) as Facebook, is providing the storage and the collaboration apps inside the Workplace environment. It is also providing connections for users to locate and transport files and other forms of data between Box storage and Facebook's lineup of apps, all inside one environment. Facebook has enabled other apps to be used in the platform, thanks to its API (application programming interface).

How Workplace for Facebook is Faring in the Market

So how does a cloud platform like Workplace for Facebook actually fit into a daily routine? Thanks to its social-network look and feel that the network has made universally familiar to more than 2 billion people, Facebook has a distinct advantage, and that has been a major factor in enabling the app set to slip into workers’ routines like glasses on someone's nose.

Since Facebook’s Workplace rollout a year and a half ago, more than 30,000 organizations (as of last October) have embraced it, creating more than 1 million groups in 70-plus languages set up around different topics or work projects—like having channels inside Slack. Workplace works across devices and allows outside contributors or contractors to join the group if access is allowed by Facebook.

Workplace is installed as a separate version of Facebook that can be accessed only from inside an enterprise IT system and subject to all the enterprise access policies. Users can share, comment on and store files, images, spreadsheets—any type of content—securely inside the app. No personal accounts connect to Workplace; it exists in similar fashion to a cloud application.

How an International NGO Uses New-Gen Productivity Tools

eWEEK likes to find out how this new-gen IT is working in the real world; look up our IT Science series of articles on this site for proof of that statement.

We recently came across an international non-profit, NGO (non-governmental organization), Oxfam International, a UK-based firm fighting the good fight to end global poverty—and often in the harshest conditions imaginable. Oxfam is an international confederation of 20 organizations working together with partners in more than 90 countries. While English is the main language used in internal communication, lots of translation software is also put to use on a daily basis.

Oxfam's staff performs life-saving humanitarian aid, creates campaigns and advocacy programs to change the systems that keep people poor and supports long-term development programs that seek justice around the world.

Oxfam moved last year to Workplace by Facebook to supply its daily dashboard for communication and collaboration across its 10,000-staff, multilingual global workforce and all their devices; it also is using Aware by Wiretap as its international governance and compliance tool inside Workplace.

Aware by Wiretap Incorporates GDPR

Columbus, Ohio-based Aware by Wiretap helps to ensure that Oxfam will be fully compliant when enforcement of the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) becomes effective May 25.

“GDPR extends stronger, rights-based protection to the personal data of European citizens and used by European organizations. Oxfam is an organization that works with people to claim all their rights, so we welcome this stronger law,” Dianna Langley, Digital Workplace Manager at Oxfam, told eWEEK from her office in Oxford, England.

“We also use Okta for single sign-on (for identity security) and an intranet solution for Wiki pages. It all works well with Workplace and Wiretap. Staff feel empowered when they collaborate in Workplace as equals, no matter where they are in the world. And with Aware by Wiretap, Oxfam is able to address the challenge of proper governance and data protection without interfering with that experience.”

Aware by Wiretap includes a feature called the Aware Data Management Module, which offers the ability to set records retention policies for all Workplace content.

Oxfam looked beyond its specific compliance needs in choosing the complete Aware by Wiretap platform, which also offers real-time monitoring and deep scan ability. This can provide Oxfam with high visibility into all the content being shared around Workplace by Facebook.

Helps Workers Make Informed Decisions

"Aware helps HR and IT teams make more informed decisions, maximize employee productivity, reinforce organizational culture and prevent incidents that don’t align with organizational values,” Langley said.

"People have the right to know what information you’re processing about them and what you know about them. Without the Wiretap app, we wouldn’t be able to do it nearly as quickly and as efficiently."

In summary, Langley told eWEEK that “we decided to go with a plug-and-play set of tools; we went with a set that could hide our organizational complexity and provide our workers with a single digital space to play in, because they’re coming in from different organizations. These tools are not tiny little startup things; they’re big enough that they are safe to use for the medium term.

“But they’re (providers Facebook, Okta, Wiretap) dynamic enough, still hungry enough, that they’re still innovating.”

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Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...