I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so I've followed with interest the Church's adoption of technology to help it accomplish its mission. The Church has used computers for years to keep track of financial and membership information in wards and branches, and it first set up shop (er, church) on the internet in 1996.
Things have come a long way in the last few years. Today, the Church's web site is useful, easy to use, and well designed. You can view ward directory information online, and mormon.org is a great resource for sharing our beliefs with the world.
Joel Dehlin became the Church's Chief Information Officer in 2004, and a lot of good things have happened since then. The Church's web sites have been redesigned, and they now both work and look better than before. A new, more capable graphical program for managing unit information has been deployed, replacing the ancient DOS-based program that had been in use for over a decade. The recently unveiled maps.lds.org site is a great way to locate a place to attend church.
Of course, there's still lots of work to do. For example, it would be great if I could view and report on my home teaching assignment online, or if leaders could view an interactive map that shows where each ward member lives. I would love it if I could subscribe to a feed that automatically showed church relevant church events on my calendar. I spent some time as a missionary in working in the mission office, and there's tons of room for technology to help out there.
I was happy to discover today that the Church is reaching out to the technology community through its LDS Tech web site. They're sharing what they're working on, soliciting feedback and help with the Church's technology projects, and working to develop some of the missing features mentioned above. Some of the projects on the site are a new home and visiting teaching application and a system for managing mission offices.
One of the coolest sections of the site is the LDS Tech Wiki, where people with technical skills can contribute to unfinished projects. If you have design, programming, editing, or other skills, and you're looking for a great place to put them to work, take a look.
Sometimes I worry that spending so much of my time studying and developing technology isn't the best way to contribute to the world. It's encouraging to see that technology is being used by the Church (and others) to accomplish great good in the world. I'm excited to see what the future brings.