Importance of the Internet
I think most probably that this [internet] technology will be helpful, to get information easily. In that way it will make clear what is truth, what is reality and what is false propaganda. I think that provided each individual uses their own intelligence or mind to investigate further, this technology should be very useful.
— His Holiness the Dalai Lama (From a BBC forum held 23 feb 2000)
What is "The Internet" ?
Technically, the "internet" is all the computers in the world that are connected, including the technologies (routers, servers, etc (which are also computers actually) as well as the wires and antennas that keep all the computers talking to each other.
So the "internet" is not just your web email. It is everything that goes over those wires from one computer to another: the email itself, web sites, messenger (such as Yahoo Messenger or MSN Messenger), phone calls on Skype, messages from an ATM to a bank, ...
The words "Internet" and "Web" are often used interchangeably. Strictly speaking, the "Internet" would be everything that goes between computers, and the "Web" would be ... websites.
Importance of the internet to you
Because of all these things, the "internet" is a gigantic library, as well as a world-wide message board, telephone network, and publishing medium. It is open 24 hours a day, and you can find anything you want there, and say anything you want.
As well as current events and blogs, information about almost any subject is available in depth and up to date. This is incredibly valuable for every subject you can imagine. Almost every college and government research organization is "on the web", along with libraries, educational institutions, associations, and many commercial directories and sites,
If you appreciate the richness of the Web and the Internet, and get the benefits yourself, then you will be better able to provide services on them. You don't have to know how to do those technical things yourself — but if you know what is useful, then you will be able to direct your technical staff.
Importance of the internet to your organisation
What does your organisation do?
Broadly, i think one could classify your organisation's jobs into something like this:
- "Communication" with other organisations, with your members, with your staff, with your supporters and donors.
Some great ways :
Letters, phone calls, faxes, meetings
Additional ways :
Email, messenger, web pages, mail lists, web site message boards
- "Publishing" your message to the world.
Some great ways :
Books, journals, brochures, press releases, workshops, conferences, lectures.
Additional ways :
Website with conference proceedings, PDF files of your publications, blogs, newsfeeds
- "Customer support" the people you are helping through your organisation.
Nothing is better than people with people: interviews, workshops, conferences, classes.
can help them when you aren't there: email, messenger, web pages, mail lists, web site message boards. With video-conferencing, podcasting and other great web tools, you can even have workshops and classes online.
- "Research" on the news, issues, papers and literature relevant to your cause.
Some great ways :
Books, magazines, journals, papers
Additional ways :
Websites, search engines to find materials world-wide, mail lists
What's the advantage of these "additional internet ways"? They just look confusing so far.
Yes, they do look confusing, probably because they are new to you. Books and paper looked very confusing to you when you first started to read — you just don't remember because it was a loooong time ago!
These days, if a company or an organisation doesn't have a website, it doesn't exist.
The more information and services an organisation provides online, the more professional it appears to the public.
When journalists, researchers, etc want to find out about something these days, they don't write letters asking for brochures — they search on the web, and subscribe to newsfeeds.
They can get information any time of day or night, and easily save it and sort through it.
Greater quantity and quality of inquiries
Quantity:People can contact you easily and immediately, through your email address on your site, or even better, through a form on your site.
Quantity:When people contact you, they have already searched for your information at least once already. So they have already shown they are interested, and through your website they are already informed.
Increase donations and sales.
Donating or ordering directly from a website can be as easy as typing in a card number and clicking a button.
Reduce cost per contact.
The ultimate cost of doing "business" on the Internet is much lower than by print brochures and letters by post.
Increased access to your information.
The information you supply is available to the world 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
It is easily findable through internet search sites, unlike a brochure that can slip underneath a pile of other literature never to be seen again!
With a website, you can easily keep your information always current and up-to-date.
Gain full access to a seemingly infinite supply of current information.
As well as current events and blogs, information about almost any subject is available in depth and up to date. This is incredibly valuable for every subject you can imagine. Almost every college and government research organization is on the Internet, along with libraries, educational institutions, associations, and many commercial directories and sites.
Maintain information that's "up to the minute" accurate.
With printed materials, the information you deliver can be out of date even before you get it back from the printer. Often, providing updated materials involves throwing out old materials that you had paid for. Materials on the internet however, can be brought up to date immediately at little cost. Also, because there is only one copy people are referring to, you can know that your readers are seeing current information — and not an out-dated brochure, that they forgot to replace with the new copy you mailed to them at your expense!
Save on printing costs.
You can reduce your printed materials to shorter brochures and pamphlets, and in them refer the reader to the wealth of information available 24 hours a day on your site.
Reduce phone usage and staff load.
By having information on your website, available to the entire world, 24 hours a day, you can greatly reduce the time your staff must spend on the phone or answering letters or emails, providing this same information.
Reduce postage, express mail and courier service, and phone costs.
Using email and mail lists, you can send large amounts of information to many people, for little or no cost.
Increase your "green rating".
By using electronic media instead of print whenever possible, you reduce the amount of paper, ink, and related materials you consume and discard — helping our poor over-worked planet (and ultimately ourselves, since that planet is where we have to live!).
And this list mostly concerns using websites and email. I haven't even started on the possiblities of online forums, blogs, wikis, video conferencing, ...
And they also look like more work! What do you need to do this?
I cannot tell a lie: They are more work. But they will reward you thousands of times over.
You need to learn new skills, to understand how to use the internet so that you can use it effectively, and to be able to get your staff trained, and to hire new staff who can use it effectively.
You need to have at least one technically-oriented person on your staff. For example:
Websites don't make themselves, and once made, they don't update themselves. Unlike books, which once published are "done", most of the work on a website is done after it goes live. That's where the benefit is — that it is always current — but that's where the work is too!
If email isn't working right, or someone is having trouble transferring a file, it is much more efficent to have someone right in the office who knows how to help. I've seen problems with calling in outside people in two ways: One is, they often aren't actually very skilled. So it's a big waste of time, and still nothing gets solved. And two, even if skilled, they have to take time to figure out the particular details of the setup in your office. A staff person will already know, because they use the setup themselves.
If your technical staff person has knowledge of networks, computer graphics, or web programming, then you have a great resource for making your website and internet tools even more useful and powerful.