Did you say CyberVolunteers?

Cyrille Marc Schmid, CyberVolunteers Project Manager, Spanish translation Tahona Santana Naranjo
02 January 2007

In the present article, I will try to present to you the CyberVolunteers Programme and answer any questions you may have about it. I will strive to provide you with a precise explanation like a quartz watch, but far easier to understand than a timekeeper of a mechanical mechanism.

What do we mean by "CyberVolunteers"? To begin with, let me define the word as it is used at ICVolunteers. A cyber-volunteer is a volunteer who puts his or her expertise, acquired through academic or professional experience in the areas of information and communication technologies (ICTs), as well as his or her human qualities at the service of NGOs, associations and cooperatives. This definition leads us to the next question:

Who are ICVolunteers' cyber-volunteers? Our cyber-volunteers, just like other ICV volunteers, are motivated and come from different cultures and horizons. There are the young, the not-so-young, and the retired. They all have one thing in common: all want to contribute their knowledge of ICTs, their skills and their know-how to projects that will help improve the life of a community that needs help.

Since the launch of this programme, in January 2005, more than 200 volunteers have expressed their intention to participate in one or another of our projects. On average, two or three candidates put themselves forward every week.

But what do the selected volunteers do? As you can imagine, ICTs are vast and can be described in many ways. For ICVolunteers, the following activities are often proposed and their duration can range from a few days to several months: training on ICTs, designing training materials, programming and software development, web site creation, network setup and maintenance, and establishing "Proximity Centres".

In short, our volunteers spread the use of ICTs, but also familiarise local populations with it as well as developing their economies and especially their autonomy.

What is the role of ICVolunteers? ICVolunteers recruits cyber-volunteers and find the candidates most suited in a given context. The choice of candidates must not only take into consideration the technical skills of the cyber-volunteer, but also his place of residence and his willingness to travel if necessary. As the digital divide is most obvious in Africa, ICVolunteers has decided to give priority to South-South, South-North and North-South type of exchanges and therefore, whenever possible, recruits candidates with specific skills for the task.

ICVolunteers participates in the transportation and housing costs of cyber-volunteers. In specific cases, health and accident insurance may also be covered. Consequently, it is essential for ICVolunteers to be able to find funds over a period of time, not simply limited to that of one cyber-project, but which will ensure the contributions necessary to its long-term sustainability.

How can I help? First of all, anyone may make a financial contribution. The budget for one cyber-volunteer's 2-month mission in Uganda at Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) came to less than SF 1,000. It is not much, particularly considering the benefit of such a mission for the local population. This is just the most recent example and it can easily be multiplied by the hundreds, since ICVolunteers has a whole stash of cyber-volunteers just waiting to bring one of the selected projects to bear fruit. However, the funds must continue to be available.

Another way to contribute is to do so in kind. This includes books and computer equipment you do no longer need, but are still in excellent condition and would be of great help for the populations of developing countries. Let's not forget new or used laptop computers which are crucial for knowledge dissemination in remote areas. This being said, especially for computer hardware, only well-functioning items should be considered, as it is about anything but dumping old junk into the developing world!

Finally, becoming a cyber-volunteer is also a way to help. I invite you to join our programme or contribute to it!

More: http://cyber.icvolunteers.org

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