When two companies as synergistic as Box and SkySync get together to help non-profit organizations help make the world a better place, only good things can happen. Box recently established Box.org, a program designed to provide its cloud services to nonprofit organizations across the country at a highly discounted cost. Likewise, the SkySync Platform file synchronization technology, is mirroring those discounts. Both companies are dedicated to helping these groups gain a higher level of data access and collaborative ability.
Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) is an organization devoted to addressing global poverty through research and translating evidence to action. Its research studies investigate solutions for effective agriculture, education, health, finance, governance, social protection, and post-conflict recovery. Headquartered in New Haven, CT, the IPA supports work in 17 countries, where it routinely consults with governments, foundations, and non-governmental organizations. Since its founding, the results of IPA’s research have improved the lives of over 50 million people around the world.
Performing the research and outreach IPA does around the world depends on connectivity: to people, data, and process. Whether it’s with researchers collecting data on the ground in an African village or arranging the analysis of these data across numerous sites, the process requires an enormous amount of data sharing and collaboration. Policymakers, academics, social action organizations and funding sources scattered across the globe are all important allies in what IPA does. Its business model depends on centralized oversight and control as well as consistent, two-way access to information amongst all of these stakeholders.
IPA’s challenge is orchestrating the high level of collaboration required for their success across a multi-national landscape that has inconsistent access to technology and internet connectivity and where various partners may employ different networking methods. Niall Keleher is IPA’s Senior Director, Research Methods and Knowledge Management and is in charge of the organization’s approach to research data collection. Niall explained that up until recently, IPA relied on a SharePoint infrastructure and that most data sharing and distributed was done via e-mail. “We had to make a serious change to enable better collaboration,” explained Niall. “We completely transitioned from a SharePoint environment to Box because we think it offers the best, most efficient way we can securely store, access and collaborate with our data. SkySync enables IPA to retain the connection with SharePoint in order to permit collaboration with our partner organization.”
Niall continued, “The challenge was to be able to sync with a variety of different data infrastructures and cloud services. This requires a lot of complex data handshaking and translation between systems,” Niall explained. “Also, the issue of inconsistent, part-time or low-speed Internet access out in the field was huge. If a file transfer to or from Box was interrupted as often happens at remote field offices, it would require starting that transmission over. Sometimes just the size of a file is the issue. For example, a 50 or 100GB data set can simply outstrip a day’s data access time. These were major challenges.”