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IT expert softens software cost for NGOs

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ROBIN Abello at work. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL—When Robin Abello developed a software for his sister’s charitable foundation, he never thought that other nonprofit organizations would use it as well.

Abello, 42, who is based in the United States, helps his sister, Micmic Abello-Golez, in fund-raising and overall planning for the Tapulanga Foundation, which she heads, in Negros Occidental. The group aims to uplift the lives of poor people through scholarships, healthcare assistance and microcredit loans.

The foundation also runs the St. Francis of Assisi School for children from farm communities in Silay City, also in Negros Occidental.

Abello runs Percworks Inc., a small computer technology company in Howard County, Maryland, which offers technical support, consulting, training and web applications development services. He obtained a bachelor of computer science degree from the University of Maryland in Baltimore and a master’s degree in software engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.

Global access

He explained that he developed the software, called Akubo, so he could access Tapulanga data from any part of the world. He recalled that the inputs made in the United States would not automatically be reflected in their records in Negros Occidental.

“We initially started with Excel, then we moved to Access, but over time, it became very frustrating to deal with our setup,” Abello said. “We looked for an online database solution and most of the services we found were geared for medium to larger organizations.”

“We decided to build our own solution, starting with a very basic online database and over time, we added more features we needed,” he said.

He said Akubo was initially developed in 2007. “I probably wrote the first version in one weekend. Of course that was the very basic version. It then took me a year to build it to the point where other nonprofit (organizations) could also use it,” he said.

“Akubo provides the convenience of placing all the data in one place accessible from any computer, smartphone and tablet browser, anytime, anywhere,” Abello said. The software got better and better and so he decided to share it with other small organizations and businesses that operate the same way, he said.

 

Small data house

He said he wanted the software to be Filipino so he named it Akubo, which means a “small house for your data.”

Users of Akubo in the United States are in the hundreds, Abello said, and it has also been well received in the Philippines.

Among the Philippine organizations using Akubo are Caritas Manila, Operation Blessing, World Wildlife Fund Philippines, Philippine General Hospital Foundation, Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation, Radyo Veritas, St. Luke’s Medical Center, St. Paul’s University Quezon City Alumni Association, De La Salle College of Saint Benilde and De La Salle Dasmariñas.

“Akubo gives you everything you need to build your donor and client database, manage and track fund-raising campaigns, and send e-mail and snail mail communication campaigns, all in one place,” he said.

User interface

Through the years, many improvements have been made—some based on suggestions from clients, Abello said. The rest of the improvements reflected changes in the technology, he added.

“For example, back in 2007, Facebook was not really used that much in the fund-raising world. But, it’s now very much a part of the fund-raising world, so we added an integration between Akubo and Facebook last year,” he said.

With more people using mobile phones and tablets, Abello said he was focusing the software’s development on a user interface instead of a PC screen interface.

For Abello, Akubo is more than a business. He considers it a chance to help nonprofit organizations. In fact, using the money earned by Akubo, he has built a chapel at St. Francis of Assisi School in Silay and has provided a college scholarship.

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