Using technology to unite people will transform the charity sector

Byte Night founder Ken Deeks takes the editor's chair today to comment on the day's news and views and to ask that we all support this worthy cause.

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The charity sector has moved on a lot in the last 15 years. Where once people were reliant on a tattered sponsorship form with which to pester friends and family to part with their loose change, now we need nothing more than a hyperlink.

The challenges that we face, are not dissimilar to those faced by the modern CIO: How do we integrate numerous operations, comprising well over a thousand participants, into one common ecosystem?

It is no great surprise. Technology plays an increasingly significant role in our lives across pretty much everything that we do. From buying shoes, to checking our bank balance, getting in touch with long-lost friends or keeping up-to-date with our favourite TV shows,the technological explosion over the last decade and a half has changed public expectations over how we interact with just about everything, and charities are no different.

Byte Night is in its 15th year. Back in 1998, when we first came up with the idea of a charity sleep-out event for the technology sector to help Action for Children support vulnerable children and young people across the UK, much of what we recognise as today's technology industry was in its infancy. Few but the far-sighted amongst us, truly appreciated just how much would change over the years that followed.

Byte Night has grown year-on-year and today we run five separate events across the UK in Cambridge, Edinburgh, London, Reading and for the first time this year, Belfast. In 2012 we have also attracted a record number of participants with more than 1,100 registering to join us on 5th October. The challenges that we face, are not dissimilar to those faced by the modern CIO: How do we integrate numerous operations, comprising well over a thousand participants, into one common ecosystem? Mastering this and uniting everyone behind one common objective to make them feel like they are part of something beyond where they happen to bed down for the evening, is what motivates sleepers to raise as much money as they can and keeps them coming back as enthusiastic as ever, each year.

Thankfully we can call on the some of the finest minds in the UK technology industry to help us and this year is set to be one of the most integrated events ever. While there will still be those armed with nothing more than a lorry-load of enthusiasm and a bucket of loose change, we will also be live-streaming the London event on the Byte Night website. Additionally we will be sending a team of intrepid reporters, from London to Reading, Reading to Cambridge, and Cambridge to Edinburgh, over the course of the evening (and early morning) to unearth the latest breaking news and stories from those taking part.

And, as ever, we'll be encouraging everyone taking part, to share their personal experiences throughout the evening on Facebook, Twitter et al.

Much has been made of how technology has opened up new ways for people to make donations to charities, be it from their laptops, tablets or smartphones. But what I find really exciting, and what helps events to grow far beyond their humble beginnings, is being able to bring people together from across different locations and unite them behind one common experience, with one common goal. That's the difference between running a successful event and running a truly great event. And, more importantly, that's what will help us to make a difference to the lives of vulnerable children and young people across the UK.

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