You can use many different terms to describe them: virtual volunteers, e-volunteers, on line volunteers, cyber-activists, etc. We usually refer to them as cyber-volunteers, because of the crucial role they play in our CyberVolunteers Programme.
But what is a typical cyber-volunteer's profile? Young, or not-so-young actually, geeky and absolutely ICT addicted or simply motivated to lend his or her expertise, talents and endless creativity to the service of a development or humanitarian project. The range of activities they can be involved in is large; it goes from training on ICTs, to designing training materials; from programming and software development, to web site creation; from network setup and maintenance to online translations.
The 25 of September, in the context of the "Youth and ICT4D Forum" organised in Geneva by the GAID (Global Alliance for ICT for Development) and the ITU (International Telecommunication Union), ICVolunteers sponsored a workshop on Cybervolunteering: a Millennium Solution for Development by Young Africans. More than 10 cybervolunteers presented their hand-on experiences, hopes and fears about ICTs and virtual volunteering in their country.
Togola Tidiani, a cyber-volunteer from Mali, presented "Web Resolequa" (which means: Web which solves equations", an integrated software of Math, Physics, Chemistry and Engineering.
"Web Resolequa is a platform, but also a community, a virtual office, which allows professionals to find a common space. Community Resolequa is a great family, gathering professors, students and company professionals. This platform meets two needs: education and sharing of knowledge. Students can find publications or post their own and, on the professional side, the passing of knowledge to know-how is assured. We set up electricity for 1800 social housing in Bamako. The site is collaborative and everyone can contribute and file these resources."
Mark Foukou-Mfoutou, officer of Azur DÃ©veloppement, an NGO active in Congo, presented the areas of activity of the organisation, that is among other things focusing on needs of vulnerable women and children living with HIV/AIDS, victims of violence and orphans.
"Our hope is to give voice to marginalized and ignored people, who are without voices and who do not have access to traditional media, either because they are poor or because they tackle subjects that do not interest journalist. Since 2003 we work with cyber-volunteers. Among them our first webmasters who created our Web site from Italy and Canada. We also have a team of on-line translators and advisers for projects in Africa and in the United States. Our organisation coordinates a blog where 215 institutional members and individuals engaged in the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, share their points of view, publish photographs and animate a list of discussion. The people living with the virus need a mean of expression which does not attract prejudice and judgment simply because they are HIV positive."
Chantal Daniels, of ICVolunteers in South Africa, shared her concerns about the lack of connection of her country.
"In my community, a suburb situated 45 minutes away from Cape Town, with a small population of 30,000 inhabitants, people, especially the youth, have not comprehended the value, the worth and the numerous benefits of being part of and having access to ICTs. For most of them, owning a computer and having Internet access is still considered a luxury, and not a need. Let me give you two prime examples of the challenges these young people face. Only three computers are available at the public library. Per day, each student is allowed 45 minutes of Internet usage, but 10 minutes alone are spent waiting for the page to open. The result: students rather use books to research projects. What concerns students attending the Community Primary School, is that they have no computer at all. No computer studies are taught, and if they are lucky, they have probably seen a computer in their life, but never had the opportunity to use it. Now the question is: what will happen to these young people once they reach the University? Less exposed to ICTs and less connected to the global village, surely they will be less productive than their connected fellow students and they inevitably fall short of a world of indefinite possibilities."
Details about the GAID Conference can be found at www.un-gaid.org/en/gfyouth.
To visit the photo gallery, click here.
You can also listen to the Podcast of the session.