Mobile readyRevised with new information as of November 21, 2016


A free resource for nonprofit organizations, NGOs, civil society organizations,
public sector organizations, and other mission-based agencies

Jayne Cravens, www.coyotecommunications.com


Tech Volunteer Groups / ICT4D Volunteers

In the late 1990s and first few years of the 21st century, tech volunteer and digital humanitarians groups seemed to be all the rage. These were programs that recruited highly skilled techies to volunteer their time to help nonprofit organizations, schools and other groups in their home country and/or help NGOs and government offices in developing countries. Most in that era were tracked via the
United Nations Technology Service (UNITeS) web site.

Among the most prominent tech volunteering initiatives once upon a time were:





 
All of the above groups are largely defunct. VITA still exists, but has scaled back its computer tech-related activities by volunteers. TechSoup still exists, but has abandoned all of CompuMentor's activities. Lots of community tech centers still exist, like Austin FreeNet (see below), but there is no networking organization for them anymore.

However, there are still tech volunteering initiatives that recruit tech experts to support either local nonprofit organizations or NGOs in developing countries.
Many operate under the auspices of a larger volunteer group, such as PeaceCorps, UN Volunteers, VSO or International Executive Service Corp (GeekCorps). Many Goodwill sites in the USA involve tech volunteers to test donated, used computer equipment, to refurbish such into working condition for sale, and to teach digital literacy classes to clients. In addition, here are more tech volunteering initiatives I know of:

AustinFree.Net
- an Austin, Texas-based nonprofit that provides technology training and access to the Austin, Texas metro area, "fostering skills that enable people to succeed in a digital age." Volunteers play key roles in meeting that mission.

ChickTech is a nonprofit dedicated to retaining women in the technology workforce and increasing the number of women and girls pursuing technology-based careers. We offer hands-on workshops, mentoring and community encouragement to help young women build confidence, and recognize and celebrate their individual potential as future technology leaders. They have a variety of volunteering opportunities related to technology all over the USA.

FreeGeek  - a Portland, Oregon-based nonprofit receives donated, used computers from the public and businesses that its volunteers then refurbish. These computers are given back out to  volunteers in exchange for 24 hours service (one free computer per year). Portland k-12 students can also earn a free computer. Refurbished equipment is also sold to the public. Volunteers can work individually or as part of a group. 

GeekCorps - In Mali, Geekcorps built or refurbished 17 radio stations on the edges of the Saharan desert. These stations contribute directly to U.S. counter-terrorism objectives by ensuring that local communities have an independent source of information beyond local tribal leaders and nearby terrorist cells, and they convey information about the democratic process. They also contribute to social development with programming that can impact health, sanitation, and education.

Geeks Without Bounds - trains teams of tech volunteers through a process called "acceleration", to improve the chances for success in their proposed tech-related humanitarian project. To participate, volunteer teams submit a five-minute video detailing their project, their team, and why they believe they would benefit most from Geeks Without Bounds Acceleration. Most projects relate to hackathon or hacks4good events, with the goal of developing a tech tool, such as a mobile app.


ITCanHelp is a free service from AbilityNet in the UK: its volunteers provide computer help to people with disabilities.

Knowbility Accessibility Internet Rally - an online hackathon and competition where teams of volunteers build fully accessible web sites for various nonprofit organizations. Knowbility also has a limited number of IT-related volunteering opportunities onsite at its HQ in Austin, Texas.

 
PeaceGeeks - hosts and facilitates events designed to engage skilled volunteers, the corporate sector and academic institutions in raising public awareness and engagement on international peace and human rights issues. Its volunteer-driven tech capacity projects are designed to equip NGOs with the tools and skills they need to engage effectively with technology, advance their work and respond to important issues in their communities.


Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) Online Today program
- recruits, trains and supports volunteers in the UK to help people with sight impairments to understand the benefits of getting online, to set up a networked device with the various different accessibility features that can make a device talk, can magnify screens, etc., and how to use their devices in all the ways anyone else does.
 
Team4Tech - born out of the Intel Education Service Corps, an Intel employee global volunteer initiative, Team4Tech launched its first project in Kenya in May 2013 with five volunteers from Intel and four from VMware. The goal was to help the nonprofit organization, Orphans Overseas, implement an adaptive learning software solution to improve early literacy and numeracy for local primary school students. Within six months of project completion, participating first graders had more than doubled their literacy test scores. Since then, Team4Tech volunteers have set up computer labs and trained master teachers in Tanzania, taught entrepreneurship to women in India, and continued to expand educational opportunities for thousands of underserved students around the world. The full cost of the volunteer project is 5,000 USD. The cost covers all in-country expenses, including accommodations, meals and local transportation, but it excludes airfare, vaccinations and visas. Team4Tech provides a fundraising platform for volunteers who wish to raise contributions from friends and family in support of their participation. Projects are designed to provide a fully immersive local experience. Teams typically consist of five to 12 volunteers, with direct support from one or two Team4Tech staff
.

Techfugees - Founded in late 2015, Techfugees is a response to the Australian refugee crisis. It is a hackathon that brings together concerned community members who co-design solutions with recent refugees to the challenges they face settling in Australia. Many of the solutions developed in previous Techfugees hackathons refugeetalent are now operating as tech start-ups in their own right.

TechSoup Forum - anyone can join the TechSoup forum and offer advice to nonprofits and other mission-based organizations asking questions there related to the use of networked devices and software.

World Computer Exchange - Dubbed the "Green Geek Squad" by The Boston Globe, its 800+ volunteers have lent their time and expertise in 75 developing countries. Through its eCorps program, volunteers can travel overseas to do work focused on helping local NGOs and other partner initiatives that have previously received computers from WCE: For two weeks, teams of volunteers work together with these partners, assisting them with troubleshooting, training and technical support, community orientation about technology and Internet issues, educational use of the Internet and the appropriate disposal of electronic waste. Volunteers must self-fund their trips. People vacationing to a developing country, or traveling to such for business, who would like to volunteer time while abroad can also be a part of eCorps.

As I mentioned earlier on this page, the UNITeS mandate was to try to track all of the various tech volunteering initiatives and encourage them to share their best practices and challenges with each other. It's sad that there is no such initiative anymore to have these various tech volunteering initiatives to network with each other, share ideas, advocate for the involvement of volunteers in community and humanitarian tech projects, etc. 

If you are interested in volunteering in a tech4good type initiative, apply as appropriate via these aforementioned web sites. In addition, you can find nonprofits needing IT volunteers, including hackathons/hack4good events, at web sites that list volunteering opportunities, such as VolunteerMatch. Be prepared to apply for many different volunteer positions before you find one at last that will take you. Finding a volunteering gig is a LOT like finding a job!

For international programs, most require the volunteer to pay all travel and accommodation expenses, as well as fees related to local staff support and training. The exceptions are tech volunteers that are placed through PeaceCorps, UN Volunteers or VSO, but please note these organizations require a commitment of many months, sometimes even two years, and volunteers must be HIGHLY skilled.

If you know of more such initiatives, please contact me a jc@coyotecommunications.com

And if you represent any of the initiatives on this page, make sure your listing on Wikipedia is correct (or exists), and that you link your page to Wikipedia pages for other tech volunteering initiatives.

Also see:



 The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook

available for purchase as a paperback & an ebook

from Energize, Inc.

Completely revised and updated, & includes lots more advice about microvolunteering!



  • Al Gore Campaign Pioneered Virtual Volunteering
    Back in 2000, when Al Gore ran for president, his campaign championed virtual volunteering by recruiting online volunteers to help online with his election efforts. I've tried to present some of what his campaign did - this pioneering effort deserves to be remembered, as do some of the lessons from such.
     
  • Short-term Assignments for Tech Volunteers
    There are a variety of ways for mission-based organizations to involve volunteers to help with short-term projects relating to computers and the Internet, and short-term assignments are what are sought after most by potential "tech" volunteers. But there is a disconnect: most organizations have trouble identifying such short-term projects. This is a list of short-term projects for "tech" volunteers -- assignments that might takes days, weeks or just a couple of months to complete.
     
  • One(-ish) Day "Tech" Activities for Volunteers
    Volunteers are getting together for intense, one-day events, or events of just a few days, to build web pages, to write code, to edit Wikipedia pages, and more. These are gatherings of onsite volunteers, where everyone is in one location, together, to do an online-related project in one day, or a few days. It's a form of episodic volunteering, because volunteers don't have to make an ongoing commitment - they can come to the event, contribute their services, and then leave and never volunteer again. Because computers are involved, these events are sometimes called hackathons, even if coding isn't involved. This page provides advice on how to put together a one-day event, or just-a-few-days-of activity, for a group of tech volunteers onsite, working together, for a nonprofit, non-governmental organization (NGO), community-focused government program, school or other mission-based organization - or association of such.
     
  • Volunteering Abroad (especially for Westerners)
    An in-depth look at the different kinds of volunteering abroad, with extensive information on what a person would need to do and study to become a viable candidate for long-term volunteering gigs where the volunteer does NOT have to pay his or her own travel and accommodations, such as the PeaceCorps or UNV.
     
  • Finding a Computer/Network Consultant
    Staff at mission-based organizations (nonprofits, civil society organizations, and public sector agencies) often have to rely on consultants, either paid or volunteer, for expertise in computer hardware, software and networks. Staff may feel unable to understand, question nor challenge whatever that consultant recommends. What can mission-based organizations do to recruit the "right" consultant for "tech" related issues, one that will not make them feel out-of-the-loop or out-of-control when it comes to tech-related discussions?
     
  • Incorporating virtual volunteering into a corporate employee volunteer program (a resource for businesses / for-profit companies)
    Virtual volunteering - volunteers providing service via a computer, smart phone, tablet or other networked advice - presents a great opportunity for companies to expand their employee philanthropic offerings. Through virtual volunteering, some employees will choose to help organizations online that they are already helping onsite. Other employees who are unable to volunteer onsite at a nonprofit or school will choose to volunteer online because of the convenience.
     
  • Women's Access to Public Internet Access, a resource I developed through research & experience to support the development of women-only Internet centers/technology centers/etc., or women-only hours at such public Internet access points, in developing and transitional countries.
     
  • Creating One-Time, Short-Term Group Volunteering Activities
    Details on not just what groups of volunteers can do in a two-hour, half-day or all-day event, but also just how much an organization or program will need to do to prepare a site for group volunteering. It's an expensive, time-consuming endeavor - are you ready? Is it worth it?
     
  • Recruiting Local Volunteers To Increase Diversity Among the Ranks
    Having plenty of volunteers usually isn't enough to say a volunteering program is successful. Another indicator of success is if your volunteers represent a variety of ages, education-levels, economic levels and other demographics, or are a reflection of your local community. Most organizations don't want volunteers to be a homogeneous group; they want to reach a variety of people as volunteers (and donors and other supporters, for that matter). This resource will help you think about how to recruit for diversity, or to reach a specific demographic.
     
  • Using Third Party Web Sites Like VolunteerMatch to Recruit Volunteers
    There are lots and lots of web sites out there to help your organization recruit volunteers. You don't have to use them all, but you do need to make sure you use them correctly in order to get the maximum response to your posts.
     
  • Using Video to Support Online Volunteers/Remote Volunteers
    Video is a great way to further support volunteers, and your computer probably already has all of the tools you need to make a video, or to engage in a live video conversation with others. Video isn't something to use only with online volunteers or remote volunteers (those providing onsite service at a different location than yours). It's also a tool you can use with new and current volunteers. In addition to an organization producing videos for volunteers, it can also work the other way around: volunteers can produce videos for organizations. This resource provides information on your options, and links to my own short video on the subject.
     
  • Using Real-Time Communications With Volunteers
    A growing number of organizations are using real-time communications -- including video conferencing, online phone calls, chats and instant messaging -- to hold online meetings with volunteers, to allow volunteers to interact with staff, clients, or each other, or to involve volunteers in a live, online, real-time event. This resource provides more information on real-time communications with volunteers -- what the various tools are, how agencies are using them to interact with volunteers, and tips to encourage and maintain participation in synchronous communications.
     
  • Lessons from onlinevolunteering.org
    Some key learnings from directing the UN's Online Volunteering service from February 2001 to February 2005, including support materials for those using the service to host online volunteers.
     
 
 

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