Forget devices, we still need signal, says WWF IT director

Organisations such as the WWF are still trying to focus on sufficient connectivity for remote workers says WWF director of ICT services, Linda Humphrey.

Organisations such as the WWF are still trying to focus on sufficient connectivity for remote workers says WWF director of ICT services, Linda Humphrey.

Speaking at Enterprise Mobility World 2014, Humphrey explained that because some WWF employees work in remote locations, such as the Congo jungle, it can be difficult for them to get signal, let alone use collaborative software or other mobility tools.

“There are still parts of the UK where we are challenged on mobility,” said Humphrey, “But most of my work is focussed on the developing world and mobile signals, never mind the device. The accessibility to get a mobile signal is one of our big constraints.”

As the WWF is a donation-based organisation, its budget for IT expenditure is tighter than most other organisations, forcing it to be creative when deploying technology.

“We are a donor based organisation and if anybody gives us a dollar or a pound or a euro they want it to be spent on the pandas, turtles and tigers, not on our email and our architecture for delivering our services.”

The two main aims for the WWF in terms of mobile devices is to make its line of business systems easier for employees to use, and to make it easier for conservation workers to collect data using mobile devices in the field.

The organisation uses off-the-shelf solutions from smaller innovative companies, as they have no in-house development capabilities. They choose smaller companies, as traditional suppliers do not always provide software to suit user needs, and can be more expensive.

Its main mobile device management (MDM) focus is on providing field workers with a Wi-Fi signal so they can utilise their devices and share their findings, and it hopes to later use mobile devices for data collection and big data.

“Where I see the potential for us is in our conservation work. We’re a very information-led organisation, we collect information about the environments and geographies that we’re working in, and use that to help support and promote policies and understanding of the conservation needs of those places.” Humphrey said.

Humphrey’s focus is on improving collaboration and efficiency for conservationists in the WWF, and this can help drive innovation, but also has to be low cost.

“We had an IT conference in Malaysia a couple of years ago and the conservationists then were taken down to a beach on the coast line where they collect and store turtle eggs.” Humphrey said,

“The IT challenge they gave us was to use IT to help them monitor how many of these baby turtles get into the mainstream of the current, and it was a fantastic discussion.”

She said talking about IT in this way fuels creativity, and the engineer’s main concern shifted from machinery towards new innovative ideas to help conservation.

We’re a donor-based organisation and if anybody gives us a dollar or a pound or a euro they want it to be spent on the pandas, turtles and tigers, not on our email and our architecture for delivering our services

Linda Humphrey, WWF director of ICT services

Currently, employees in the field use Google collaboration tools to ensure data can be recorded offline and synced later. The firm also uses Webex, Google Hangouts and Skype for meetings and communication.

She said that, although bring your own device (BYOD) is commonplace, devices are not affordable enough to provide a corporately owned personally enabled (COPE) solution, and employees usually use their own as they can afford a better device, which can then be used for work.

“In our field offices it’s not that easy, and people do tend to bring in their own devices because what we can afford to give them to work on is not as great as the stuff they can buy themselves and use.”

At the end of last year, the WWF moved into its new eco-friendly Living Planet Centre UK office in Woking, one of the greenest buildings in the UK.

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