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Creating a Digital Peace Corps

Post:

18

Date:

Jan 26, 2001

From:

Peter Miller


Let me preface my comments here by noting the sparse reference to specific projects, studies, and model efforts as characteristic of the draft paper as a whole. There are a number of consequences in proceeding in this fashion, and the current discussion is one area where we can begin to see some of the issues and consequences.

The idea of "creating" a "Digital Peace Corps" is one that has lots of resonances with similar efforts, and to the degree it's adopted as a strategy and recommendation, it should be done in a way that's knowledgeable about and speaks to them. People have already noted a number of these: circuit riders, Tech for All's analyst/associates program, Geek corps, netcorp.org, netcorp Canada, City Cares Partners in Technology, volunteermatch.org, to gather the ones I've caught so far. The number of these programs is extensive. On the matter of "Geeks" alone, there is a diversity ranging from blackgeeks.org which has been around for a while to the geeks group that split off from the discussions in digitaldivide@list.benton.org last year (and that has an interesting and informative archive at http://Geek.For.America.listbot.com).

Central to the idea of a "Digital Peace Corps" are the initiatives that have come out of the Peace Corps itself as well as the debate that I understand is going on there regarding the development of its own digital brigade. Especially central are the programs being supported by AmeriCorps*VISTA, our country's domestic peace corps, which has a history of ad hoc local technology empowerment support projects which have culminated in the more focused programs from last year's $12.5M digital divide initiatives (some of these programs and proposed sites can be found at http://americorps.org/vista_tech and http://nationalservice.org/americorps/digital/summary.html).

"Creating" a "digital peace corps" can usefully address these efforts as a foundation to build upon. In almost every instance they share the key characteristic of the Corps we're trying to build--though technically skilled, they are not technical specialists but citizens interested in institution and community building. Referencing and incorporating them in a report and strategy reflects useful knowledge about what's going on. They provide a base of indigenous community organizations that speak to the needs and concerns expressed in these exchanges about having trusted agents. Their existence helps target strategic constituencies and projects for further training and support.

-----peter

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