Close to 1800 global visionaries, innovators, practitioners and policy makers, all geared to sharing knowledge and building partnerships at the Third Global Knowledge Conference (GK3) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 11 to 13 December 2007.
Participants came from 135 countries, comprising 19% from public sector, 21% from private sector, 29% from civil society, 20% from international organisations, 5% from media and 6% from academia.
The GK3 theme Emerging People, Emerging Markets, Emerging Technologies is a dynamic focus on the interplay, interface and interweaving of issues related to Knowledge for Development and Information and Communication Technologies for Development within the context of evolving societies, economics and technologies worldwide.
As a member of Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP), ICVolunteers organised a round table and participated in a high level panel jointly organized by the Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID) and GKP. ICV also led the preparation of a statement on cybervolunteering to which a number of organisations contributed and which was presented at the GKP Pavillion.
In addition, ICV represented the Maaya Network -- World Network for Linguistic Diversity -- with which GKP concluded a new partnership agreement, signed by Adama Samassékou, Maaya and ICVolunteers' Federation President and Rinalia Abdul Rahim, GKP Executive Director and the secretariat of which is at the ICV headquarters.
What major trends and changes can be expected in the next decade regarding volunteerism given the interplay of technologies, markets and people? What are the key challenges in ensuring the sustainability of ICT volunteerism for development today? What are the measures that must be put in place to address the challenges and how must volunteer organisations adapt in the digital age? These and many more questions were discussed by a panel of experts during this session.
Among the speakers were Barbara Waugh, Director, University Relations Hewlett-Packard Company, Paul Jhin, Director of Special Initiatives, Peace Corps Headquarters, Quinn Sutton, Executive Director, Digital Alliance Foundation and Sobri Ahmad, Secretary-General of the Committee of ASEAN Youth Cooperation. The session was opened by Sarbuland Khan, Executive Coordinator of the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development. Viola Krebs, Executive Director of ICVolunteers Federation, implementing a CyberVolunteers Program, served as the moderator of the session.
Volunteering is a mass social phenomenon and an expression of solidarity in development action involving hundreds of millions of people worldwide. If volunteers were put all into one nation, they would represent the world's 5th economy. In an era when the international community and decision makers are grappling with the challenges of spreading opportunities for human development as widely as possible, it was timely to consider the role and contribution of Volunteerism in the Digital Age.
Rapid advancement in the field of ICT has made the world more connected. It has also led to a vast divide between those with ICT access and skills, and those without. Without ICT access and skills, people are unable to connect and reap opportunities presented by a networked world, and are thus in danger of being left behind. ICT Volunteerism has a crucial role to play in furthering the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and in bridging this divide.
Through different examples, speakers illustrated that ICT Volunteerism provides one of the solutions to the problem of building human capacity that helps nations harvest the benefits of the digital age for development purposes. It also helps under-served communities to be part of the Information Society, particularly in developing countries, by enabling a transfer of valuable ICT skills and knowledge. Among the examples mentioned were MentorNet, a non-profit organization working to further women's progress in scientific and technical fields through the use of a dynamic, technology-supported mentoring program and which is supported by Hewlett-Packard. Also mentioned was the Cyber Development Corps (CDC), training volunteers in Asia.
The session, organised by GKP and the UN-GAID, aimed to raise awareness on the impact and importance of ICT volunteerism in spreading digital dividends worldwide with examples drawn across sectors and thematic areas covering health, education, disaster management and more. Paul Jhin of the US Peace Corps Volunteers outlined the following paths for cybervolunteerism to help further the MDGs:
Challenges in delivering ICT volunteerism effectively were also highlighted. Quinn Sutton pointed out that volunteer management was all about capacity building and streamlining: "Volunteers are like cats, you need to take care of them", said Quinn. The Digital Alliance Foundation is aiming to train 1,000,000 people and equip them with basic ICT skills by 2017.
Discussion with participants revolved around issues of how to sustain volunteer initiatives with the support of public and private sector players, how to enhance collective advocacy on ICT Volunteerism, and how to continue the knowledge sharing on lessons learned.
"Discussions should not stop here", pointed out Sarbuland Khan in his closing remarks. "This session should serve as a catalyst for further exchange and discussion both within GAID and GKP", he concluded.
One of the basis for these discussions will be the statement on cybervolunteering, outlining a number of areas to further focus on.