International Symposium on Volunteering and Development of Capacity in the Information Society (ISV 2003)

Project at a glance

Dates and Place

23 - 25 October 2003, Dakar, Senegal


ICVolunteers, Volunteer Family of the International Civil Society Bureau of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).


Project coordinators working with volunteers in the field of New Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), as well as government, civil society and private sector representatives.

Project details


The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) -Geneva 2003 and Tunis 2005- will provide an opportunity to discuss issues raised by the emergence and current development of the Information Society. Offering a new interactive approach, the Summit will involve UN agencies, governments, civil society, the private sector and the media.

After PrepCom 2 of the WSIS, it became clear that there was a need to develop models for the implementation of the declarations and action plans brought forward in the Summit process. It is in this context that the Volunteer Family held the International Symposium on Volunteerism and the Development of Human Capacity in the Information Society from 23 to 25 October 2003 in Dakar, Senegal.

Organized by ICVolunteers, the three-day Symposium was an opportunity for participants to look at the mobilization of volunteers for projects linked to ICTs, with respect to five specific aspects: (1) infrastructure, (2) training, (3) development of contents, (4) partnerships and financing and (5) institutional framework.

The Conference brought together 165 participants from 25 countries from Africa, Europe, the Americas and Asia. Among these were representatives from governments, civil society, the private sector and the media.

Many of them presented their ICT-Volunteer Projects. These presentations formed the basis for a Conference Report, which will be published (book/CD-ROM), and serve as a basis for the WSIS debates in December 2003, as well as to strengthen the position of Volunteer organizations. Not only will the impact of ICTs on their work be illustrated, but also the impact their work on ICTs and how Volunteers are contributing to bridging the digital divide. Furthermore, participants discussed a Volunteer Action Plan to be implemented between 2003 and 2005, as well as what concrete action should be undertaken. There was a particular focus on the reinforcement of collaboration and partnerships, both at a national and international level. The ultimate goal of the discussions was not only to tackle the "digital divide" between the North and the South, but maybe even more so the one that separates urban zones and rural ones.

Results: The main result of the Symposium is the Message of Dakar, a series of recommendations made by participants.

Opening Ceremony

Date: 23 October 2003 


  • Mr. Theo Van Loon, Project Director, International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE), Pays-Bas
  • Ms. Renata Bloem, President of the Conference of NGO in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CONGO)
  • H.E. Mr. Livio Hürzeler, Swiss Ambassador to Senegal
  • Video, H.E. Mr. Guy-Olivier Segond, Special Ambassador for the WSIS
  • Video, H.E. Mr. Adama Samassékou, President of the WSIS PrepComs
  • H.E. Ms. Mame Fatim Gueye, Ambassador and Secretary General, Commission Nationale pour la Francophonie

The Symposium was opened by Mamadou Diop Decroix (Minister of Senegal for Information and Pan African Cooperation for ICTs of the Republic of Senegal). Several prominent speakers then provided their vision about opportunities and challenges of ICTs and the role of volunteers in the information society.

Mamadou Diop Decroix pointed out that "Information and Communication Technologies are threatening to marginalize those who have not taken their importance seriously." For Mr. Diop, the convergence between telephone, radio, TV and computer "can let us foresee structural changes the consequences of which for the evolution of societies are hard to predict."

He went on to recall that the "complex problems" with which the decision makers and citizens are confronted with when using ICTs "sometimes result in rejection or suspicion which highlights the lack of preparation of our societies - in the North as well as in the South - to ensure the change from the industrial age to the informational age."

The Minister then questioned, "which is the place of the individual in this new, not yet well defined space"? According to him, Africa has missed the industrial revolution due to slavery and colonialism. Against its own will, it found itself "marginalized", a situation that continued after the independency with the exclusion from large international solidarity programs. Since then, Africa has lived several decades of structural adjustments and has suffered under the deregulation of its telecommunication systems.

According to Mr. Diop, "this movement of exclusion should be transformed into inclusion", as "Africa will be further marginalized if it does not actively take part in the information society." In this sense, the Minister stressed that the Symposium should "consider very carefully the proposal made by President Abdoulaye Wade for the creation of a digital solidarity fund, jointly administered by civil society, the private sector and governments." Mr. Diop expressed his conviction that the real issue is contents: databases, electronic commerce, digitalization of the cultural heritage, use for good governance..." He recalled that we should not forget that "we are after all talking about communication between human beings. Machines and technology should have the sole objective to facilitate this communication."

Different speakers further developed the Minster's point. Theo Van Loon, of the International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE) insisted on the importance of volunteering in this moment of profound change of society. He underlined that volunteers were the intermediaries in this change. He also mentioned electronic volunteering, which "allows volunteers to share their competences through new technologies."

Renata Bloem (President of the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations - CONGO) stressed the importance of civil society in the WSIS process, as well as about the role of her organization, founded in 1948: it is through the fieldwork of volunteers and civil society that we can help reduce the digital divide.

The Swiss Ambassador to Senegal, Livio Hürzeler, underscored the commitment of Switzerland to support the WSIS and related initiatives, also underlining that President Abdoulaye Wade was "one of the first leaders to understand the issues linked to the new technologies" and that the concept of a digital solidarity fund had been extensively discussed during the preparatory meetings of WSIS.

Mame Fatim Guèye, Ambassador and Secretary General of the Commission nationale pour la Francophonie pointed out that, for her, the objective of the Symposium was to "find the means to render the density of the web more effective" in a process "which is of concern to us well beyond the World Summit on the Information Society." Recalling the role of volunteers, she underlined that "they were the ones who put the knowledge into application."

Two video messages were shown during the opening ceremony: the first from Guy-Olivier Segond, Special Ambassador of the WSIS; the second from Adama Samassékou, President of the WSIS PrepComs. H.E. Mr. Segond's message recalled that 91% of all ICT users are located where only 19% of the world population lives. In his message, he went on to mention that the digital divide "is of concern to us all". It does not only separate North and South, but also cities and rural areas, youth and the elderly. To reduce it, it is necessary to add South-South cooperation to North-South cooperation, which is often better "adapted to needs." For Segond, "it is necessary to mobilize the large Volunteer Family, the voice of which needs to be heard."

Adama Samassékou thanked President Wade for "his efforts in making the advent of the information society a reality" and for his concept of digital solidarity, which, according to H.E. Mr. Samassékou had "evolved well". He further stressed that it is key to "transform the digital divide into digital perspective," and that everyone can participate in such a venture, with cultural and linguistic diversity, wealth of peoples. He also underlined that there was a great need for (social) solidarity. "Nothing sustainable will happen if we do not change our habits," he stressed. "Just like human rights advocates, volunteers, who are actors of proximity, are the pioneers of the future."

Plenary: Thematic Presentations

Date: 23 October 2003, afternoon

Moderators: Panel 1: Viola Krebs (Organizing Committee of the Symposium) Panel 2: Malick Ndiaye (Primature, Republic of Senegal)

Reporters: Serigne Abdoul Aziz Ndoye and Jocelyn Pierre (Direction de l'informatique de l'Etat, Présidence, Republic of Senegal)


  • Makane Faye, CEA, United Nations Economic Commission of Africa (CEA) "la CEA et le NEPAD dans la société de l'information"
  • Tidiane Seck, Directeur général de l'Informatique de l'Etat, Sénégal "Les infrastructures dans la société de l'information"
  • Manuel Acevedo, Université libre de Catalogne, Barcelone, Espagne "Le rôle du secteur universitaire dans le renforcement des capacités"
  • Diane Trahan, Director of Netcorps Canada "Infrastructure, formation et cadre institutionnel"
  • Pierre Carpentier, Afrique Initiatives, France "Développement des contenus: le projet de Saint-Louis"
  • Henri Valot and Mahamane Maiga, United Nations Volunteers Mali "Développement de contenus: le rôle des autorités locales"
  • Aineruhanga Milton, Programme Coordinator, Women of Uganda Network, Ouganda "Développement des contenus: women of Uganda Network"
  • Arman Vermishyan, Président d'ONG, Arménie "Développement de contenus: Burg Youth Environmental Center"
  • Marie-Hélène Mottin-Sylla, Enda Tiers monde, Senegal "Réseau Genre et TIC: la place des femmes dans la société de l'information"
  • Johan Holmberg, World Computer Exchange, Sweden "Programme World Computer Exchange"

These two sessions focused on examples of volunteer action in the field of ICTs. It was noted that the philosophy of the Internet and the that of volunteers share common dynamics: solidarity, networking, resource sharing and availability. There is a need to concretize this symbiosis.

The strength of volunteering resides in the great number of people mobilized for a project. It appears that its main added value is the duplication of pilot projects or action that needs a broad mobilization. To illustrate this, several applied examples were given by the different speakers.

Rural Development

Nowadays, access to the Internet is a key question, in particular for populations in rural and isolated areas, living in regions with neither telephone nor electricity. Recent technology, available at reasonable cost and simple to install, known under the name of WIFI (wireless fidelity), can today be deployed thanks to large-scale volunteer action (subject to compliance with national regulations).

In the field of infrastructure, the wireless network of Seattle, the "MAN" (Metropolitan Area Networks) could serve as an example in the construction of "RAN" (Free Rural Area Networks). Volunteer action could also enable the use of renewable energy generators (solar, wind-driven generators).

In rural areas, the question of local language diversity is very important and needs to be considered when creating contents aimed at local populations.

In the case of decentralization, the experience made in Mali has shown the local governors themselves can get involved in the creation of contents and the use of ICTs in the management of local government structures (the "mayor-webmaster").

The contribution of many volunteers has made it possible to reach numerous members of local governments and to respect cultural and linguistic diversity.

Sharing and Cultural Exchange

The notion of values, exchange and knowledge sharing is key when it comes to volunteer action.

The program "Netcorps Canada International" allows pairs of volunteers (one Canadian and one Brazilian for example) to spend twice three months together, in community structures located in the two countries. They participate in the life of the community and can gain experience from each other.

In view of some of the experiences presented, it appears that ICTs play a fundamental role in knowledge sharing and collective work.

The example of the databases created in Uganda by the NGO WOUGNET  show how to improve the living conditions of women thanks to ICTs: increased productivity thanks to capacity building, easy access to relevant information and to email, creation of small businesses, etc. This project won an award (fifth place worldwide) in October 2003 at the World Multimedia Awards.

Duplication, Large Number of Volunteers

All this experience requires generalization. Volunteers are the best placed individuals for this application, which implies a strong partnership between the various actors.

Installation and maintenance of equipment on a large scale are major projects, requiring a substantial workforce and skills that are often available in the North and quite easily transferable to volunteers and beneficiaries in the South.

Computers for Schools Kenya has organized a collection of hundreds of computers among Kenyan companies, as well as their reconditioning, distribution to schools and training of beneficiaries. The program of the Swedish NGO World Computer Exchange provided an insight into the specific role volunteers can play in such initiatives.

In the same manner, many efforts of awareness-building and training need to be privileged by volunteer projects reaching large numbers of beneficiaries (via cyber-centres, schools or members of local governments, etc.).

In the framework of the struggle for a better environment, the Armenian NGO Burg Youth Environmental Center has dispatched young volunteers in cyber centres across the country.


The lack of follow-up is often the cause for failure of cooperation projects. Volunteers can be very useful in this field. They can help ensure continuity, provided there is a continued flow of volunteers. Already well-trained volunteers can training newcomers and helping them integrate the system before the previous ones leave. In the field of ICTs, certain activities require particular continuity to be successful: maintenance of equipment and networks, updating of web sites and databases, training for trainers and potential new users, training related to new tools, etc.


Volunteers constitute a large communication network. Through this network, they exchange ideas and enhance awareness raising around questions of knowledge, cultural diversity and more generally the information society at large. These networks can be regional or worldwide.

The network Régentic (Gender and ICTs) established by Enda-Tiers monde, aims to promote women in the field of ICTs, the development and production of useful applications by women themselves.

What Added Value for Volunteers?

Although the definition of "volunteer" was not discussed in this session, the projects mentioned particularly involve younger people (18-30 years old). For them, volunteering is an opportunity to express their solidarity, and, for the volunteers coming from the North, also expand specific technical skills in the field of ICTs.

Types of Action

To summarize, here are some types of action successfully carried out by ICT volunteers:

  • Establishment of the "last human kilometer" of connectivity;
  • Creation of local ICT content;
  • Involvement in the information society of marginalized and unprivileged groups;
  • Awareness raising of decision makers regarding the issues at stake for ICT for development;
  • Introduction of ICTs in educational and health systems;
  • Development of community cyber-centres;
  • Establishment of cooperative networks online;
  • Peace building in crises and post-war zones and good governance.

Action Principles

The principles below should be given particular attention:

  • presented by the private company "Afrique Initatives" and its achievements in Saint-Louis, Senegal;
  • Ensure the coordination and follow-up of volunteer projects thanks to the active use of ICT networks (for example NetAid, the online service of UNVolunteers);
  • Connect volunteers working in different programs (for example IAVE, NetCorps Canada Coalition) institutionally and individually;
  • Favor the use of open source and free software.


In order to implement these actions, participants insisted in setting up an appropriate institutional and financial framework.

The "Initiative Africaine de la Société de l'information" (AISI) states that "the enhancement of human resources requires new skills on the part of leaders and labor, the capacity to adapt, explore and exploit new technologies and to master change. In this respect, for Africa, there is a need to reach out to the Volunteer Family. Volunteers are key actors of tomorrow's African information society: they realize a range of projects with relatively limited means and thus help implement NEPAD's plan of action.

Workshop 1: Content Development

Date: 24 October 2003, 9h00 to 17h40
Moderator: Diane Trahan, Director of Netcorps Canada, Canada
Reporter: Djibril Ndaw, Direction informatique de l'Etat (Republic of Senegal)

The aim of this workshop was to discuss issues linked to contents development, whether contents to be disseminated through the Internet or other means of communications, such as radio, newspapers or television.


Participants first established an inventory of important points and then put together a list of recommendations.The inventory identified four main means used for contents development: the Internet, radio, television, and newspapers. It also looked at the positive and negative impact of ICTs on social, economic and cultural development in various countries around the world.


Major issues and impediments for contents development were identified:

  • Technical knowledge required for updating contents;
  • Cost linked to web hosting;
  • Reliability and credibility of information sources;
  • Hosting and referring: complexity of procedures at the national level;
  • Access to information technology and the Internet by target populations and beneficiaries;
  • Challenges for partnerships: true participation and control of civil society over the development of contents.


Recommendations aimed at (1) solving issues that might hinder the development of contents, (2) develop a short-term strategy to consolidate acquired knowledge and promote the development of contents in other fields such as education and training, health and nutrition, human rights, environment, agriculture, security and disaster relief, culture and cultural exchange, marginalized populations.

  • Considering their multiple applications and low cost, increase the use and distribution of free and open source software for content management.
  • Volunteers are an asset for social, economic and cultural development. They often contribute their own skills and knowledge when developing content. Their contribution should thus be fully recognized and valued.
  • In order to develop trustworthy content ensure that volunteer editors have access to reliable information sources.
  • Make wider use of volunteers for the production of electronic content. Depending on the situation, volunteers may need training and assistance, but this can help them become trainers in turn.
  • The creation and management of content by volunteers can be particularly valuable in rural areas. Affordable connections should be extended to these zones (e.g. by negotiating reduced rates for non profit organizations).
  • Include language diversity into national cyber-strategies. The translation of content into local languages should be increased and this might be possible through volunteer action.
  • Considering the cost and difficulties of including civil society content into commercial portals, develop online platforms or portals for civil society. This can also help with information sharing and the development of better communication strategies.

Workshop 2: Training

Date: 24 October 2003, 9h00 to 17h40
Moderators: Olivier Nzepa, ANAIS (Cameroon); Mostafa Massmoudi (Tunisia)
Reporter: Daniel Dory

The aim of the workshop was to identify different kinds of training and the main actors responsible for these.


Through an inventory, it was possible to identify the main areas of intervention of volunteers and the target groups towards which their efforts should be directed. Participants differentiated several types of training depending on:

  • Target public
  • Level of training (content)
  • Actors involved
  • Training methods used (online, on site)

They then made recommendations on how volunteers could contribute.


It is possible to distinguish four basic types of training:

  • Basic education directed towards:
    a) Children and adolescents education, where teachers play a fundamental role;
    b) Adult education, where volunteers play a key role (for example, aimed at the local electorate).
  • Basic technical training (related to the use of hardware, networks, software and equipment) which should be accessible to all actors of the information society. Here, volunteers play an important role in Africa and elsewhere.
  • Training focusing on contents creation, which is the responsibility of the schools for higher education in different countries as well as volunteer organizations.
  • Dissemination of fundamental knowledge according to education and research policies of individual countries.

ICT training includes a range of aspects, where each actor, public, private or NGO, has a specific role to play.

There is a need to identify the areas in which volunteers should particularly focus their action, taking into consideration the essential role of volunteers as irreplaceable actors for training in certain sectors of the population not reached by the government training institutions. ICTs need also to be fully integrated into the activities of volunteers, as a means of communication and a tool of work, regardless of where the volunteers are active.


  • Reinforce the capacity of volunteers in order to enable them to train ICT users at all levels and with all groups outside the official national system of education.
  • Guarantee the necessary financial means for volunteer action in the field of ICT training. This can be obtained through multilateral agreements regarding the channeling of resources.

Workshop 3: Partnership and Financing

Date: 24 October 2003, 9h00 to 17h40
Moderator: Ramata Molo Thioune, Canadian Cooperation, Senegal
Reporter: Youssoupha Diagne

The participants of this workshop focused on five questions linked to partnerships and financing:

  1. What types of financing and partnerships (e-volunteering) are required to maximize the effectiveness of work carried out in the field?
  2. How can organizations best work together?
  3. What are the conditions for a successful multi-sectorial partnership?
  4. How can the private sector be convinced that it must work more with the volunteer sector?
  5. How can it be demonstrated that it is not just a matter of "marketing investment", but rather of a global strategy that fits into plans of company responsibility which are ultimately beneficial to companies?
  6. Are there "good" and "bad" investments? If yes, what recommendations can be formulated in this respect?


After having defined the objectives of the workshop, participants agreed to take the following steps:

  1. Develop a common vision regarding appropriate partnership and financing mechanisms in view of Tunis 2005;
  2. Outline practical recommendations to fight against the digital divide.

To answer these questions, participants drew on their experience.


When they examined the situation, participants identified several existing initiatives. They regret however that these are not well coordinated.

A dangerous imbalance was noted between the various parties engaged in partnerships.

There is the need for a clear framework related to both partnerships and financing in order to ensure the availability of information and knowledge. An efficient partnership, based on equity and justice, and financing mechanisms taking into consideration the real needs of communities, will make it possible to translate this vision into concrete action.

Each participant described his/her own experiences in the field of ICTs. This has brought to light the significant dispersal of actions that are being carried out.


  • Redefine the roles and statutes (participative approach) of each actor in the partnerships (governments, financing agencies, private sector, civil society (volunteers).
  • Create a solidarity fund and define projects and programs at a international, national and local level, which need to respond to a true need and create the basis for sustainable development.
  • Capitalize on the experience acquired from ICT projects in various countries, recording areas where funds have already been invested into ICTs at any level, according to a participative approach.
  • Plead, through ICTs, for company volunteering and for increased recognition of the need for social responsibility, based on already existing mechanisms, such as the "Global Compact".
  • Set up, within the United Nations system, a worldwide structure specifically focusing on ICTs; enhance visibility and coherence of national institutions, create a unit specialized in ICTs within the overall Volunteer Family.

Workshop 4: African Infrastructure

Date: 24 October 2003, 9h00 to 17h40
Moderator: Ulla Skiden, World Computer Exchange, Sweden
Reporters: UllaSkiden, Johan Holmberg, World Computer Exchange, Sweden

Participants focused on the African infrastructure and identified specific needs to make it work better. They also worked on recommendations on how volunteers can best contribute and what should be left up to the public and private sector companies/operators.


The following three questions were discussed:

  1. What are the specific needs of Africa in terms of infrastructure?
  2. How can volunteers contribute to achieve these?
  3. What recommendations can be given?


Volunteerism and infrastructure pose a number of challenges. Due to its complex technical, political and economic nature, the involvement of volunteers in helping build African infrastructure is something that is most useful at the micro- and in-country level.Indeed, it appears that backbone structures mostly need to be planned and built by professional cable companies/operators. However, volunteers can play a helpful role through university projects, corporate volunteering and involvement in supportive organizations.

They can also join professional technical work teams in some cases, as well as act as catalysts for the implementation of pilot networks, as administrators and general advisors. A particular example of this are telecenters. Many of these are pilot projects and only partially operating. Volunteers help make these more sustainable through training and technical assistance.

There is an increasing need for volunteers, however, in activities to support the realization of such projects. For instance, volunteers can be brought in to help in the fields of deploying end user technology, training and awareness raising. To this end, there is a need to create solutions for low cost access to volunteering groups. Some volunteering organizations, such as Greenstar, Schools On Line etc., are active on a small-scale in rural areas. Others, such as Schoolnet Africa and World Link wire schools and some areas successfully. In the case of World Link, the development of infrastructure by volunteers created an interest and a demand for Internet access, which caught the interest of private actors.

To achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Africa will need the best technology, and the support of the best scientists and volunteers from around the globe. More than just for Africans, this is a challenge for the entire international community, including developed countries who have the means to take on complicated networking tasks that call for the development, not only of technology, but also of new social and business models. A multidisciplinary approach is necessary to achieve a win-win situation for all involved parties.

There is a need for interconnections between countries, as well as within countries (e.g. IXPs, fibers linking countries). Volunteers have a role to play in helping make this a reality, even though they cannot necessarily be expected to take on the actual task of constructing the networks. There are many barriers to tackle, such as geographical conditions, first kilometer issues, end user perspectives, policies, monopolies, cultural implications etc. If well planned and coordinated, volunteering can have positive impact on many of these issues.


  • An inventory of volunteers, research projects, field projects, needy NGOs, etc. would make it possible to get a clearer picture of the possibilities for volunteers. Volunteer activities should be matched with government policies and other initiatives launched.
  • Based on this inventory, an African ICT volunteer taskforce, possibly hosted by NEPAD, could be created. This taskforce should have national chapters to address specific national issues and issues related to interconnections and cross-country networking cooperation. The taskforce would recruit, train, and equip volunteers, and have a coordinating role.
  • Volunteers should become involved in any existing inventory of infrastructural needs in each African country.
  • Experience from pilot telecenters are positive, even if limited in number. Volunteers could play a pivotal role in developing the concept of telecenters, and deploying a greater number of such centers. Volunteers will have good opportunities to raise awareness and train people in basic ICT usage.
  • There is a need for low cost volunteer solutions. At the same time, it could not be expected that cohorts of volunteers will pay a lot of money to get out in the field. Therefore, funding mechanism should be initiated for this.
  • Volunteers could support the knowledge creation in the technical field in Africa. A cost efficient way is to set up recycling centers across the continent. These centers need to be environmentally sustainable in order to be able to receive used computer equipment, shipped from the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries, and refurbished in Africa. This would create job opportunities, and a sustainable economic model.
  • Research is needed on partnership models between the private and the volunteer sector, also in relation to NGOs and the public sector.
  •  The academic world is a good source of volunteers. University to university partnerships should be increased in number, possibly funded by international or national donor agencies.

Workshop 5: Institutional National and International Framework

Date: 24 October 2003, 9h00 to 17h40
Moderator: Amadou Top, OSIRIS (Senegal)
Reporters: Topias Issakainen ICVolunteers, Moustapha Ndiaye and Papa Assane Dieye, DIE

The workshop on the national and international institutional framework focused on concrete solutions to bridge the digital divide between those who have access to information and those who do not. In particular, the proposal made by Abdoulaye Wade, President of Senegal, to create a Voluntary Digital Solidarity Fund. Participants also brainstormed about possible institutional structures designed to enhance volunteer action and increase the communication between existing networks.


This workshop was structured into two parts: (1) discussion on a Digital Soliarity Fund, (2) debate on Volunteer Networks. Questions discussed included:

  1. How can a Digital Solidarity Fund be most effective and move from being a project to something that is put into action?
  2. What institutional framework is needed for better volunteer coordination?


Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF)

The discussion included the following topics:

  • Organization and objectives of the Voluntary Digital Solidarity Fund;
  • Means of achieving these objectives;
  • Use of the money provided by the Fund;
  • Partnerships and roles of the different actors involved, e.g. private sector, governments, etc.

In his introduction, Amadou Top provided a short history of how the idea of the Voluntary Digital Solidarity Fund came about. After the failure of the Cancun Summit and difficulties in Johannesburg (follow-up of the Rio Summit), there was a firm determination to make the Geneva World Summit on the Information Society a success. The idea of the Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF) originated in Senegal in the drive to develop systems that could help bridge the digital divide and offer support to African countries. It was initially inspired by the "Taxe Taubin", but applied to IT products and managed through a foundation. Due to the reluctance of the European Union and the United States, this formula based on taxation was abandoned and a voluntary fund was suggested instead. The foundation would be based on Swiss law and managed in a transparent manner. Members could include representatives from all continents, from the private and public sectors, as well as civil society. They would be appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

The Fund would, on one hand, be based on specific funding requests and in particular destined to help connect the poor. On the other hand, it should facilitate investment, which cannot be covered by one State alone. It would thus be beneficial for all sectors.

In the context of PrepCom 3, more points of contingency were identified with respect to the administration of the Fund. While rejecting the idea of any heavy bureaucracy, the United States endorsed the concept of the fund. Most European nations, however, categorically rejected the idea of any new structure, pointing out that existing mechanisms should be used instead. The Arab League and many Latin American countries supported the Fund. Senegal pointed out that the existing structures are too difficult to access. In addition, it claimed that they often do not take into consideration ICTs, which is why a new structure is needed.

The issue of the Fund was discussed again in an international context during PrepCom 3 Bis (10 to 14 November 2003, Geneva).

Volunteer Networks

Regarding volunteering and ICTs, it was noted that no institutional framework exists that could enhance the role of ICT volunteers. The latter have an important role to play when it comes to training, the construction of ICT infrastructure, and knowledge transfer to rural populations. This institutional framework could be considered at the national level to enhance national policies on ICTs.


Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF)

  • The DSF is linked to technical questions which can only be dealt with by experts. The latter would in particular be asked to propose management mechanisms and to offer the necessary assistance for its implementation;
  • A meeting of African and international experts could help when establishing the framework of the fund;
  • Technology should be used wisely for the administration of the fund;
  • The creation of national and sub-regional solidarity funds (as created by Tunisia and Thailand) can facilitate the creation of appropriate national ICT strategies and the launch of the international fund.

Volunteer Networks

  • Create an ICT volunteer network at national and international levels, e.g. the federation of ICT volunteer initiatives between the South and the North.
  • Create capacity building centers linked to ICTs to enable volunteers to actively contribute to human capacity building.
  • Create a database of volunteers and their level of expertise.
  • Structure and implicate the African diaspora in this process, as well as the reinforcement of local resources at all levels for the development of ICTs.

Reports and Final Plenary

Three main activities took place on the last day of the Symposium: (1) presentation in the plenary of the results of the thematic workshops; (2) presentation of projects; (3) the contribution of volunteering to the WSIS.

Presentation of Results of the Thematic Workshops

Date: 25 October 2003, 9h00 to 17h40
Moderator: Viola Krebs, President of the Symposium Organizing Committee and Focal Point of the WSIS Volunteer Family
Reporter: Youssoupha Diagne

The morning plenary provided workshop rapporteurs with the opportunity to present the results of the thematic workshops of the previous day:

  • Workshop 1: development of contents
  • Workshop 2: training
  • Workshop 3: partnerships and financing
  • Workshop 4: infrastructure
  • Workshop 5: institutional framework, national and international levels

Reports consisted of two separate parts: (1) analysis and (2) recommendations. For the first part, workshops based their work on the draft of the WSIS Plan of Action.

The second part of the plenary allowed participants to provide feedback on the reports presented.

Presentation of Projects 1

Date: 25 October 2003, 9h00 to 17h40

Moderator: Malick Ndiaye, Primature, Republic of Senegal

Reporter: Viola Krebs, ICVolunteers


  • Diop and Abdoul Aziz Sall, Project "Appui à la société civile et aux volontaires au Sénégal en vue du SMSI", CONGAD, Senegal
  • Habib Mohamad Lamine Cissé, Secretary-General of ISOC, Mali
  • Filifing Diakite, Association des Communicateurs pour la Promotion des TIC au Mali "InfoNet"
  • Ousmane Wade, Meissa Niang, Projet Generation Multimedia 2000 (Gm²), Senegal
  • Jean d'Eudeville, Cybercafé Vis @ Vis, France
  • Diana Mercorios, African women's development organization, ABANTU for Development

In this session, six ICT projects were presented under the moderation of Malick Ndiaye of Senegal. All these projects are in one way or another linked to the African continent, be it because they are carried out in Africa or because they facilitate communication of Africans living abroad.Mr. Diop and Mr. Abdoul Aziz Sall of CONGAD (Conseil des Organisations Non-Gouvernementales d'Appui au Développement) (Senegal) presented their project "Preparation of civil society and volunteers in Senegal for the WSIS." They announced the creation of a "Network for the information society and development", bringing together volunteers and NGOs active in the field of ICTs in Senegal and offering a platform of exchange in view of the WSIS. Mr. Diop and Mr. Sall also insisted on the importance of training and underlined that it is necessary to make ICTs widely available. CONGAD will offer the members of the group to use its ICT facilities and other resources outside of training hours.

Habib Mohamad Lamine Cissé and Aminata Konaté of ISOC Mali presented their training program for trainers. Among the partners of the program are MINTI, Sotelma, USAID-Mali, and BMS. In addition, ISOC-Mali regularly organizes the "Fête de l'Internet" and was at the origin of the first sub-regional workshop of the Internet Society in Africa, which focused on network administration on Linux Bamako 99. The organization is very active in training, both with respect to contents generation and network administration. All its projects rely heavily on volunteer effort.

Filifing Diakite, Association des Communicateurs pour la Promotion des NTIC au Mali, presented "InfoNet" which aims to enhance information and increase awareness about the Internet published through media (radio, newspapers, television) at a national level. This effort also includes accompanying all actors and users of the Internet, whether they use it for training purposes or to promote the Malian culture on the Internet.

Ousmane Wade presented the Projet Generation Multimedia 2000 (Gm²) (Senegal) which aims to create a favorable learning environment offering good teaching and learning conditions. This project foresees making available decent equipment (computers, television, radio, cameras, etc.) which is regularly maintained, as well as the creation of teaching tools in accordance with official national teaching programs. He emphasized that skills building linked to ICTs and the integration of new educational technologies (NTE) into the educational curricula ought to have a positive impact on educational systems and teaching practices.

Jean d'Eudeville of Cybercafé Vis @ Vis (France), first stressed the driving force of public digital spaces for getting users and ICTs closer together. He then presented public "visio-phone", a service offered by his organization the Cyber café Vis @ Vis, located in the XVIII arrondissement of Paris, a popular neighborhood where many Africans live. Public "visio-phony" is a phone service allowing the two correspondents to see each other live through a publically available PC. The "visionaute" sits in front of the screen, putting on headphones and speaking to his loved ones who are often thousands of kilometers away.

Diana Mercorios presented her organization, ABANTU for Development, which was founded in 1991 by African women living in England. Applying a gender approach, the organization works in the field of poverty reduction, focusing on governance and conflict issues, as well as on the contribution that ICTs bring to development. Ms. Mercorios described how her organization integrates volunteers. On one hand, these offer their experience, their enthusiasm and sometimes even their knowledge of Africa, and, on the other hand, they acquire a professional experience which enables them to develop competences in the field of research, information generation, awareness raising, political analysis and development experience.

Presentation of Projects 2

Date: 25 October 2003, 9h00 to 17h40

Moderator: Papa Birama Thiam, Directeur de l'Assistance Technique, Primature, Republic of Senegal

Reporter: Viola Krebs, ICVolunteers; Youssoupha Diagne


  • Mahendranath Busgopaul, Halley Movement, Mauritius
  • Susana Barnetche, Centro Nacional del Voluntariado, Mexico
  • Rose Ekeleme, IAVE, Nigeria, Training of Volunteers for Human Capacity Building in Nigeria
  • Anthony Carlisle, International Association for Volunteer Effort, Asie Pacifique
  • Judith Cobeña, Catalan Federation of Social Volunteer Capacity Building et la 18e Conférence Mondiale d'IAVE, Barcelona, Spain

In continuation, participants attended the session chaired by Papa Birama Thiam, Director of the Department of "Assistance Technique" of the Republic of Senegal. During this meeting, five presentations showed specific examples of ICT volunteering experience from around the world. From Nigeria to Mexico, from Mauritius to South Africa and Spain, the large Volunteer Family has launched projects in a range of fields.

Mahendranath Busgopaul of the Halley Movement (Mauritius) presented the Internet Child Safety Foundation (ICSF), a coalition of organizations fighting for child security on the Internet. The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness among all groups of society, including parents and children about the risks linked to the use of the Internet by children. The campaign distributes leaflets and other materials and offers practical advice. For its campaign, ICSF works with volunteers.

Susana Barnetche of Centro Nacional del Voluntariado (Mexico), briefly presented the work of her organization, which aims to promote philanthropy in Mexico and to encourage citizens to actively contribute to the development of their society. This organization considers that everyone has something to offer. This is also the principle behind the new web portal,, a site that connects organizations and volunteers and enables a fruitful exchange of experience and information.

Rose Ekeleme of IAVE Nigeria underlined that technology was still in its childhood in Nigeria. She considers ICTs an important element for skills building of volunteers of her organization. Nigeria has a large number of NGOs, of which about ten percent are managed by volunteers. IAVE Nigeria offers training classes in the field of ICTs. During the first training program, 25 trainers were trained who then trained 1,000 volunteers in 36 states all over the country. These volunteers then further spread the information. If the experience needed to be summarized in a word, it would be "networking".

In his presentation, Anthony Carlisle of IAVE Taiwan (Province of China) tackled three main aspects: (1) specific information about the state of ICTs in Asia Pacific. (2) a case study on the IAVE web site, which has been recreated thanks to a partnership between organizations based in Asia, Europe and the Americas. In this case, the Internet is not only being used as a communication tool, but also a true workspace. (3) volunteerism and ICTs, to be included in the Action Plan 2003-2005 of the WSIS Volunteer Family.

Judith Cobeña, of the Federacio Catalana de Voluntariat Social and the 18th World Conference of IAVE (Spain) presented the aim and the preliminary program of the Conference, which will be held from 17 to 21 August 2004 in Barcelona, as part of the Universal Forum of Cultures Barcelona ( It will discuss in depth the ethical framework under which it will move forward, and the nature of volunteer commitments in the defense of values such as justice and human rights. It will likewise aim to formulate proposals to make this task easier, turning it into a real opportunity to make an impact, a true engine for change toward a better world. It will also be an opportunity to further discuss ICTs and volunteerism for a better world.


The portrait shown through the various presentations is one of diversity and innovation. Some of the key topics that were outlined include:

  • The implication of young volunteers;
  • The diversity of targets: political decision makers, women, immigrant populations;
  • The commitment of the African diaspora;
  • The need to exchange experiences.

The day ended with the closing ceremony moderated by Amadou Top, President of OSIRIS and Special Advisor of the Symposium. Mr. Alain Clerc of the WSIS Executive Secretariat spoke about the Summit and stressed the importance of solidarity and commitment.

Iam Diallo, Director of the Mission de l'Informatique of  Mali, continued in this same line and pointed out that Africa was in need of a lot of solidarity, which is something volunteers can bring.

Mr. Makane Faye of the Economic Commission for Africa presented the Message of all the Symposium participants. It was asked to balance the Message in order to also include other regions of the world in addition to Africa.

Ms. Viola Krebs thanked her team and all the particpants for the active participation. Mr. Mohamed Tidiane Seck, Director IT of the Republic of Senegal closed the Symposium on behalf of the Minister.

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