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Narrowing The Digital Divide Notes On A Global Netcorps by Ian Smillie - October 1999

Conclusions and Next Steps
Assessing existing structures and organizations for interest and potential in helping to develop a Global NetCorps is beyond the scope of this paper. Certainly many like-minded organizations are struggling with new delivery mechanisms in this challenging and quickly evolving field. Reaching decisions on the potential for partnership and the creation of broader coordinating mechanisms will require further discussion among interested volunteer-sending organizations, government agencies, existing coordinating bodies and potential users of the service. This should take place soon, before momentum and territoriality overtake caution. Supporters of the idea will require good advice from technical experts who can support rather than lead the process. The architecture of such an alternative is less important at this stage, and less problematic perhaps, than creating a workable partnership and making a decision to proceed.

It has been suggested that a small meeting should be held among current and potential stakeholders to discuss both the potential for a Global NetCorps and various programming options. If this were to happen, it should be a meeting of organizations that are most likely to become champions of the idea. The meeting should, at a minimum, include Industry Canada and UNV as prime movers of the initial concept. It should also include representation from the current Canadian NGO coalition, and two or three international bodies such as those sponsoring the forthcoming Global Knowledge meeting in Kuala Lumpur. Ideally, one or two volunteer-sending organizations from other countries (e.g. VSO UK, AVA Australia, SNV Netherlands) should be sought as early allies.

If this were to be done before the end of 1999, if the outcome was positive, and if the skeleton of a plan could be devised, it would be possible to dovetail next steps and expansion of the discussion into the March 2000 Global Knowledge meeting in Kuala Lumpur, and to make it the subject of a workshop there among a broader cross-section of organizations with the capacity to assist in building and refining the idea.

The Global Knowledge Meeting will be attended by many organizations that could add to, and benefit from, a Global NetCorps. On the other hand, some of the organizations that might participate in a Global NetCorps - both from a contributing and benefitting point of view - might not, in the normal course of events, be there. It will be important to ensure, therefore, that the invitation net is cast wide enough if this venue becomes part of the building strategy.

The Kulala Lumpur Meeting may be too large, however, too early, and too broad for the kind of discussion suggested here. A smaller international meeting, dedicated exclusively to the Global NetCorps concept, might therefore be more constructive and less rushed.

List Of Interviews - Annex 1

ACCT (Organisation de la Francophonie), Paris
Cyrile Simard

Canada World Youth, Montreal
Paul Shea, John Cawley

CIDA, Ottawa
Roger Dumelie

CUSO, Ottawa
Cindy Moriarty

IDRC, Ottawa
Chris Smart

Industry Canada, Ottawa
Doug Hull, Susan Hart, Justine Akman

ITU, Geneva
Pierre Gagné, Telecom Development Bureau

OAS, Washington
Susan Benson, Trust for the Americas

UNV, Bonn
Sharon Capeling-Alakija, Manuel Acevedo

World Bank, Washington
Kerry McNamara, Global Knowledge Partnership

WUSC, Ottawa
Marc Dolgin, Enid Dixon

Dr. David Johnston, President, University of Waterloo; Stephanie Sykes, Director, Professional Development, Bell Canada, Montreal; Sam Lanfranco, York University, Toronto; Kara Cruoglio, HandsNet Virtual Training Institute, Washington


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