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WSIS Volunteer Family finalizes: Volunteer Action Plan 2003 to 2005
16 December 2003

Geneva: Leaders from volunteer organizations, as well as representatives of governments, civil society and the private sector met from 7 to 8 December at Palexpo for the Conference on Volunteering and Information & Communication Technologies (ICTs).

Key issues discussed included the role of volunteers in the field of capacity building, e-volunteering, open source software development, corporate volunteering and the reinforcement of cooperation with other actors such as governments and the private sector.

The two-day Conference was concluded with the presentation of a Volunteer Action Plan to be finalized this week and presented in the governmental plenary on 12 December 2003. Priorities identified include ICT literacy training, in particular for those groups of the population not reached by existing training programs. As pointed out Liz Burns, President of the International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE), in her closing remarks, “the number one priority of volunteers working in the information society should be to help reduced the digital divide.” Xavier Verzat of ATD-Quart Monde pointed out that in particular the poorest of this planet need special attention of volunteers in a time where the gap between those who do have access to information and those who are excluded is growing more than ever.

Kumi Naidoo, CEO and President of CIVICUS and Member of Kofi Annan’s High Level Civil Society Panel, talked about various levels of involvement and stressed that volunteers not only work at the micro level but also miso and macro level, including the development of policy.

Volunteers established a working group with several specific targets to explore and identify real-world ways that the worlds of volunteerism and open source development can come together to address needs in the developing world.

Volunteers have played and continue to play a key role in the development and the use of ICTs. They were essential in the development of UNIX, Internet protocols and the Web. Many of these volunteers work in informal ways, not necessarily belonging to a specific organization. Participants of the Conference agreed that it was important to increase recognition of volunteer efforts in the information society. While many things can be achieved through volunteer effort and with very limited means, it is important to keep in mind that setting up volunteer structures requires a minimum budget.

A great emphasis was placed on finding concrete ways that existing networks of volunteer that a very exiting part of it is that focus on channeling the knowledge being brought from the field by existing volunteer organizations working in developing countries combining that with the very dynamic and fast-moving world.

The Action Plan will be presented to governments on 12 December 2003 in the afternoon.