Sun, Sep 28, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Forum examines global volunteerism, the IT industry and improving the world

By Debby Wu  /  STAFF REPORTER

International Association for Volunteer Effort World President Liz Burns making a speech at the forum yesterday.

PHOTO: NCHC

Officials and scholars yesterday pointed out that information technology brought new problems but also new possibilities for volunteerism.

The National Center for High-Performance Computing (NCHC) and the International Association for Volunteer Effort Taiwan (IAVE) yesterday held the Science Volunteer Outstanding Leadership Forum, with World President of IAVE Liz Burns as a special guest. IAVE is one of the leading international volunteering organizations and it has close ties with UN Volunteers.

The forum aims to encourage the public to participate in volunteerism related to the science field, especially focusing on combining information technology and volunteerism, and discuss the new volunteering phenomenon brought about by new technologies.

"Volunteering is a global phenomenon and we are a part of the global movement. Information technology is just going to help us realize how global we really are," Burns said.

Burns said that information technology had brought new possibilities for volunteerism, such as online promotion, recruitment and training of volunteers, fast dissemination of related information and knowledge, and international volunteerism as a result of free and fast distribution through the Internet.

Burns said that overseas volunteering could also be worrying. She said it was important to ensure the volunteers would gain good experiences otherwise they might withdraw from volunteering in the end.

Burns also said that information technology actually created a divide in the world between those who could access the Internet and those who could not. She said that according to a survey conducted two years ago, 65 percent of the world's population did not even have access to a telephone or electricity.

"Since volunteering represents an effort to establish justice, fairness and a better society, it is important that we have to ensure no new divide is created by the use of information technology," she said.

Chairwoman of the National Youth Commission Lin Fang-mei (林芳玫) agreed with Burn's statement.

"Sometimes the fanciest computers are not the best things available. If the volunteers bring in fancy computers into not so advanced areas and then leave without teaching the locals how to operate and maintain the equipment, it is useless. We have to give the locals what best suits their needs," Lin said.

Executive Director of World Vision Taiwan Hank Du (杜明翰) also said that for volunteer work to succeed, the volunteers have to have a similar mindset to enterprises, that is, be customer and result-oriented.

"The volunteers have to have a win-win mentality, and most important of all, they need to have empathy for others," Du said.

On the other hand, Burns is still eager to see the modernization of IAVE with the application of information technology.

"The biggest challenge of all is to build an infrastructure of volunteering work to help us work better in the information society," Burns said.

To realize that goal, IAVE is collaborating with the NCHC, which is under the charge of the National Science Council (NSC), to build up a web-based platform (http://www. iave.org) for IAVE volunteers and internet users worldwide to access related information.

Convener of the NCHC Foresight Office Kuo Chia-chen (郭嘉真) said that when the Volunteer Service Law (志願服務法) was first passed in 2001 they were not certain what they could do. The law required various government departments to take charge of volunteering work in their fields with the NSC in charge of science-related volunteers.

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