iCities (V). Round Table: Connected Citizens. Cyberactivism.

iCities is a Conference about Blogs, e-Government and Digital Participation.
Here come my notes for session V.

Round Table: Connected Citizens. Cyberactivism.
Chairs: Rosa Jiménez Cano

Alana Moceri, president Democrats Abroad Spain

First time that primary elections can be done on-line. This means increasing the number of countries where voting is possible from 34 up to 161.

Online, everyone can contribute: absolutely everyone can upload videos to YouTube, photos to Flickr or text to any blog. Pro: democratization. Con: loss of control over your campaing.

Fundrising is key and is a good proxy to test the health of a political campaign.

Obama’s discourse is really 2.0: you can, empowerment, engagement. MyBarackObama.com is a good example of it, where you can even earn points as a reward for your implication and helping recruit other people. This really builds up a formidable base of activists.

Marshall Ganz: It’s values, not only interests, what drives people to take part in civic movements.

Sebastián Lorenzo

Fundación Generación Libre: how voters connect to social networks in Argentina. Not centralized, not decentralized, not distributed, but complex networks. They best way to boost complex networks is to build software that enhances the connection between peripheral nodes to the central ones (leaders).

Cyberactivism: activities to help bridge the digital world with the off-line world, with impact in the “real” world.
Cybermilitant: someone commited in the long-run with “someting beyond” cyberactivism. We’ve yet to find out what this really means.

Noticias LA: a distributed network of volunteers, living in all coutries of Latin America and Spain, selecting local news and feeding them to the site, acting as a news agency 2.0.

César Calderón

Social mediators are no more the protagonists in the Administration-Citizenry interaction: it’s the citizen the one that has to lead the approach towards their Government.

We are used to long run political campaigns, this is why, how and what for political parties were created for. But now people gather around more ephemeral and ad hoc actions. And, indeed, the top-down way of designing engagement has given place to a more bottom-up way of participating. Horizontal replaces vertical.

Antoni Gutierrez-Rubi

Goals of activism: have to be possible to reach and well planned. Assessment is a must and often overridden because of the speed of times and lack of time to reflect.

Proposals: agitation is good, but also reflection. A choral voice (i.e. making the same proposal from different places and points of view, but the same one) might be desirable now and then. Continuity and orientation of the discourse would help in the long-run engagement of our target.

Arguments: less opinion, more arguments. Ideas are good as long as they are “well packed” and backed with arguments.

Leadership: hyperleadership is good to avoid fragmentation, but has to leave room for shared leadership. Of course, leadership to achieve changes and goals. The ROI on leadership has to be positive and as big as possible. What matters is not getting there alone and early, but with everyone and on time (León Felipe).

Activists: they have to feel comfortable working without parties and organizations. But linked to the causes by following some basic rules. ARTivists: someone to be taken into account to help in the “packaging” of our ideas and arguments.

Plurality: are we in a networked world without boundaries… or sheltered in our trenches? Open minds.

Influences: credible, proximate, creating opinion. We have to impact “reality 1.0”, not think from and for the minority.


iCities 2008, Blogs, e-Government and Digital Participation (2008)

e-STAS 2008 (I). Raul Zambrano: ICTs, Digital Divide and Social Inclusion

e-STAS is a Symposium about the Technologies for the Social Action, with an international and multi-stakeholder nature, where all the agents implicated in the development and implementation of the ICT (NGO’s, Local authorities, Universities, Companies and Media) are appointed in an aim to promote, foster and adapt the use of the ICT for the social action.

Here come my notes for session I.

Raul Zambrano, UNDP
ICTs, Digital Divide and Social Inclusion

Four stages of ICT Development

  • connectivity, get people connected
  • content and have people have capacities to deal with it
  • services
  • participation, Web 2.0

Digital divide

  • Within countries
  • Among countries
  • Within and among countries

The difference between the digital divide in developed countries and developing ones is that in developing ones is but another manifestation of other divides — this is not necessarily this way in developed countries.

How can technology bride social divides, not technological divides?

Divides: differences attributed to knowledge, and differences dues to more physical and human capital.

Both the speed of adoption and the speed of diffusion of technologies are have very different paths in developed and developing countries [So, it’s not just that leapfrogging can be made possible (adoption), but it has to be actually fostered (diffusion). But, part of fostering diffusion to achieve quicker and broader adoption is about giving the population what they need and/or are asking for].

Thus, in the policy cycle (social gaps, awareness raising, citizen participation, agenda setting, policy design, development focused, implementation, evaluation/assessment, reduction of social gaps, new emerging issues), these population needs must be taken into account when designing public policies.

In this policy cycle, networking is crucial to gather all sensibilities and ensure that participation does take place. If there is not citizen participation, public policies are likely to be government’s or lobbies’ interests biased.

All in all, it’s about empowerment.

Comments, questions

I ask whether it’s better push (public led) or pull (private sector led) strategies.

Raul Zambrano answers in the framework of developing countries. In these developing countries, the Estate is to foster and create aggregated demand, it is the main purchaser, investor and installer of ICTs (infrastructures, services, etc.).

On the other hand, it is true that there is a latent demand from the citizenry, and there already is a manifested need for ICTs.

About the private sector, the problem in developing countries is that the private sector might not have resources enough to set up pull strategies. Or maybe they could, but it still makes poor sense for them when looking at the Return of Investment. This is especially true with developed countries firms trying to get established in developing countries, though local enterprises might not think (and behave) alike, and find it’s huge benefits what elsewhere might not even make it worth it trying.

So, put short, in developing countries what seems to be working is a centralized model but progressively decentralized [as the subsidiarity principle in the European Union, I’d dare add].

Do we need to keep on working on access (if everyone already has a cellular)?

Yes, definitely, but not as an independent variable but as a dependent one [this is one of the cleverest statements I’ve heard in months about the digital divide].

Paco Ortiz (AHCIET) intervenes in this issue: incumbent telecomms normally pay a ratio of their profits to governments so the latter can help solve the last mile issue. The problem being that once these governments have cash to do so, the sometimes shift the funds to other priorities — no critique intended: these priorities can be Education or Health. Thus, legitimate or not, the result is that universal access is never achieved, but not at the private sector’s fault.

One person from the audience harshly attacks governments for their corruption, which invalidates them to foster any kind of policy or to get any kind of funding from whom ever.

Raul Zambrano states that it is precisely transparency and accountability one of the main goals of ICTs in the sphere of the government.


e-Stas 2008, Symposium on Technologies for Social Action (2008)

Understanding online volunteering: microvoluntarios.org

In a research I made some years ago (see more info below) I described a taxonomy and a typology for online volunteers. The typology had four types of online volunteering:

  • Type I: Online Advocacy
  • Type II: Online Assessment & Consultancy
  • Type III: Onlined Offline Volunteers
  • Type IV: Pure Online Volunteers

These types of online volunteering where based on the kind of tasks that an online volunteer could perform, especially by looking at what made different (beyond the obvious) an online volunteer from a traditional, onsite volunteer.

These differences can be summed up like this:

  • Knowledge intensive — not workload intensive
  • Able to use small amount of spared times between other tasks, or in the impasse from one task to another one — e.g. at workplace, at home, on the way from workplace to home, etc.
  • Can quickly perform multiple, small and short run tasks
  • Can work in a decentralized way
  • Can network

One of the main conclusions was that online volunteering could help nonprofits regain “lost” volunteers that could not go ahead with all of their daily duties plus onsite volunteering engagement, or just access an unexploited cluster of goodwill people that could not volunteer because they were too busy or too aged to do some tasks (e.g. build a school in an overseas country).

I’m happy to see that this is exactly what Fundación Bip-Bip has done with their new project Microvoluntarios.org.

The site is a network where nonprofits can upload requirements for help that enrolled volunteers can help achieving. The difference is that the focus is put in microtasks. Microtasks are:

* The ones that do not need more than 120 minutes to be achieved
* Can be fully performed online
* Can be done by people not necessarily connected in a formal way to one organization, be it staff or volunteer
Some examples can be: looking for information on the Internet, translating some pages, transcripting some short documents, brainstorming for the creation of a logo, writing a short story, designing a campaign, recommending some bibliography, doing surveys, photo editing, viral marketing, recruiting members, etc.

The site, really at a beta stage, does need some tweaking — like how being noticed of new microtasks in your area of expertise — but the idea is excellent. Kudos to Fundación Bip-Bip!

More info


Development Cooperation 2.0 (V): Communications

Lady Virginia Mugarra Velarde
Education for HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases prevention

The role of ICTs to educate about sexually transmitted diseases prevention, especially to educate educators.

An important aspect of such education is to ease the communication between the physicists and their patients.


  • Train educators about these diseases… and how to educate about them
  • Sensitize youngsters about prevention
  • Mobilize policy makers

The main successes are, above all, the speed and spread of information and training, with a strong focus on prevention, which is where information can actually make a difference.

Tools: a platform with three axes (1) content (2) spaces for debate (3) online assistance

María Jesús Medina
Cybervolunteering at Iníci@te Programme

[note: in this session, cybervolunteer = ICT volunteer, not online volunteer. See my Online Volunteering Taxonomy for more details]

Volunteers experts in ICTs to help users in telecenters.

Volunteers are trained about attitudes, techniques, the environment they are going to work in, the target beneficiaries of the several activities, etc.

The public-private partnership between the regional administration (coordinating the project) and the local administrations and telecenters a must for success.

Olga Fernández Berrios
Reflections, tools and experiences about cooperation 2.0

Training for nonprofits about technology for nonprofits, with a strong use of Web 2.0 applications, such as feed aggregation, metablogs, wikis, instant messaging, VoIP, microblogging, online volunteering, etc.

Blogs in the field: use of blogs to raise advocacy and transparency by writing within and from a development project.

Blogs at the headquarters: same, but from the nonprofit headquarters (no need to be really there, but the focus)

Directories of projects and institutions.

Metablogs: Global Voices Online

Planets: feed aggregators, automatically updated once have been set up. The information comes to you.

Wikis: Where nonprofits share their information, handbooks, procedures… and with the possibility that this information can be updated/build collaboratively.

Caveat: some of these initiatives are not top-down, not institutional, but raised by individuals, sometimes as a personal answer (critique?) to the bureaucratic slowness and lack of flexible response of some organizations.

Social networks: some of them using richest media, such as The Hub.

We should shift from talking about technology to talking about the uses of it. The Web 2.0 allows this shift, as technological solutions come more and more irrelevant.

Free flow of information: RSS, copyleft or open licensing, syndication


Vicente Carlos Domingo González

To enable media diffusion, especially video, for nonprofits and development issues.

Their role is to act as a new information agency to cover events, projects from nonprofits. It runs on a volunteering basis coming from the media sector + a technological platform to broadcast video.

The goal is not only to broadcast, but have audience too, thus the commitment with high-quality low-band requisites of the portal.

José Manrique López de la Fuente
Opportunities of Mobile Web in developing countries

Success bridging the digital divide

  • The will, motivation to access the Net
  • Material access
  • Personal capacity, competences
  • Access to advanced uses

The importance to generate local business possibilities based on ICTs.

Part of the material access and personal capacity interaction is about the ease of use, that should be kept clear in all ICT4D projects.

Mobile Solutions

  • Specific applications for mobile phones: maximum integration with the device, but device diversity can generate incompatibilities
  • Voice and/or SMS based solutions: simple and working, interoperability could be a pro or a con
  • The Web as platform: rich, standards are mainstream

Mobile Web

  • Advantage: Integration of existing solutions
  • Advantage: Technologies based on open standards
  • Problem: user experience, diversity and cost in some places
  • Problem: low-tech devices that cannot access the web, mobile carriers not providing access

Carolina Moreno Asenjo
Global Networks and social engagement: ICT integration strategies at Entreculturas


  • Improve quality in education, at a global level
  • Foster advocacy through ICTs
  • Fight the “loneliness” of the teacher in his classroom
  • Cut down costs in training and knowledge sharing
  • Create a link to catalyze network building

Leverage communities of practice and communities of learning with ICTs.


  • engagement of the beneficiaries
  • funding
  • logistics when setting up the hardware and technological platform
  • motoring, coordination
  • sustainability

Communication in Alegría Activity

Mobile (connected) classrooms.

Eduardo Pérez Gutiérrez
Geographic Information Systems in Educational Centers for Regional Development

Goals: Develop web-based GISs for diagnose and monitoring of educational centers for regional development.

To fight lack of education in remote, rural areas, governments supply these regions with instructors, that are not actually teachers but have a broader profile, socially speaking, but a lower profile as an educator. So, their social profile is good to interact with the community but the quality of teaching might not be as good as expected.

The GIS should help cross data about the reach of an instructor’s activity, the profile of the population reached by this instructor, etc. and then help the decision-making about the instructor, his activity, the way he spends his budget, etc.

Benefits: focused investments, allows centralized administration, transparency and monitoring, enables confidence, provides context and helps strategy design.


Development Cooperation 2.0 (2008)

Cooperation for Development 2.0

Next January 30th and 31st takes place the Cooperación al Desarrollo 2.0: I Encuentro Internacional de las Tecnologías de la Información y la Comunicación para la Cooperación al Desarrollo [Cooperation for Development 2.0: I International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies for Cooperation for Development], in Gijón, Spain.

I have been invited to chair one of the four workgroups of the event, actually the one that is more focused on Cooperation for Development 2.0, the one called Networking Cooperation – towards the networked Cooperation.

I have also been asked to write an article, a position paper to start up the debate. It will be coming in the next days, but in the meanwhile, I’m working on the following concepts/keywords:

  • Network: Everything will be networked or won’t be. Institutions will be nodes of a grid or isolated, disconnected, starving islands in their way towards disappearance.
  • Gift economy: You’re in a network and what you give is what you get
  • Open access (open source, open content): If you’re a nonprofit, it absolutely does not make (even less) sense to rediscover the wheel, not to disclose your capital
  • Presence: Be on the Web or be not. Networks and networking, accountability, transparency, advocacy will be web based or, at least, begin on the Web.
  • Citizen engagement: The rising importance of media (remember the “C” in ICT) shifts the focus from charity, direct cooperation to advocacy, and the power to mobilize the citizens to lobby internationally.
  • Online Volunteering: For the most engaged ones, online volunteering makes possible distributed, high quality and highly granular engagement
  • Long Tail: Nonprofits, volunteers, minority groups have the potential to find and be found more than ever.
  • Networking + Long Tail + Online Volunteering: The evolution of aid big funders (international and national governmental agencies, big foundations) in the last days has shifted from ‘coffee for all’ to ‘big impact on concentrated clusters’. As in firms, I wonder if there is a trend towards big knowledge hubs where multinational nonprofits receive big funding, having the most operational tasks outsourced to smallest onsite nonprofits and online volunteers that gather around a project and dismantle once it is done.
  • North-South vs. South-North: No more people traveling around: knowledge workers collaborate online, funders wire funds and target communities from cooperation work on an endogenous development basis.

Comments really welcome.


Final version of my position paper, in Spanish, already available:

Peña-López, I. (2008). Reticulando la Cooperación — hacia la Cooperación Red: Materiales para un debate. Position paper for the workgroup “Reticulando la Cooperación – hacia la Cooperación Red”, 30th January 2008, Cooperación al Desarrollo 2.0 conference, Fundación CTIC. Barcelona: ICTlogy.


Online Volunteers: Knowledge Managers in Nonprofits

As already advanced, my paper Online Volunteers: Knowledge Managers in Nonprofits has been already published in the first issue of the new Journal of Information Technology in Social Change.


Online volunteering is as old as the World Wide Web… or as the Internet itself. It is, notwithstanding, with the growing use of the WWW circa end of 1994 that it starts to become popular. Nevertheless, we believe that neither the concept nor the tasks that can be carried along by online volunteers are clear at all or, in any case, are the result of a wide consensus.

The research we here present analyzed 17 websites devoted to fostering volunteering to find out (a) if there was a broadly accepted definition of the concept of online volunteering and (b) if there was a list of tasks thus designed as the core or ideal competences of online volunteers. According to our findings, in this paper we will, first of all, describe all the different denominations for online volunteers and, closely related to them, try and see what are the profiles and tasks that, tied to these denominations, are usually performed or asked for in those main 17 volunteering websites.

To end, we will take some distance from the object of research and, in a more theoretical level, we will then suggest what the online volunteer profile could be and the main tasks he or she could really carry on related to this profile, the nature of the Information Society and the possibilities of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).

In this aspect, our thesis will be that, just like distance and/or online education changed formal education, ICTs are opening volunteering to some people usually excluded from nonprofits because of personal and professional obligations. On the other hand, it seems that these newcoming people enrolled through and thanks to ICTs do come with a brand new profile, a profile whose main added value is knowledge. It will be stated, then, that the online volunteer is a perfect knowledge management actor and that knowledge transmission seems to be is his or her main role in solidarity.

Citation and postprint download

Peña-López, I. (2007). “Online Volunteers: Knowledge Managers in Nonprofits”. In The Journal of Information Technology in Social Change, Spring Edition – April 2007, (1), 136-152. Vashon: The Gilbert Center.