A diverse group of 37 online volunteers from across the globe engaged in 4 months of intense collaboration with the United Nations Department of Economic Affairs (UN DESA) to process 386 research surveys carried out across 193 UN Member States for the 2014 UN E-Government Survey. The diversity of nationalities and languages of the online volunteers -- more than 65 languages, 15 nationalities, of which half are from developing countries -- mirrors perfectly the culture and mission of the United Nations.
The UN E-Government Survey assesses government web portals with a focus on the provision of e-information and e-services that connect governments and citizens. It provides decision makers with information that enables them to identify their areas of strengths and challenges, as well as suggested options on how best to move ahead. “It is the first time that the UN E-Government Survey is undertaken with substantive support from a global team of online volunteers in a very innovative way, taking advantage of latest technologies, making the assessment process effective, efficient, user-friendly, and transparent,” states Vincenzo Aquaro, who coordinated the online volunteers’ collaboration with UN DESA’s Division for Public Administration and Development Management, which prepares the survey.
Prasida Khanal, a Public Health graduate student from Nepal currently living in the U.S.A., considers that contributing to the work of DPADM was the best opportunity to serve her country from abroad. “I do not think I will be able to change the system of my country. Nevertheless, I can at least make an effort to alter the lives of people by being a part of a national public health and policy team. This journey has led me to wonderful experiences”.
As the organization allowed for an introductory phase of the project to familiarize the volunteers with concepts, terminologies, the online survey platform, national portals and the online e-Government Survey Platform, the task had a positive learning impact on the volunteers themselves. “This volunteer opportunity was very rewarding not only because it is meaningful, but also because volunteers were trained about specific knowledge regarding e-government and e-participation,” says online volunteer Shaopeng He from China.
The online volunteers found the collaboration across all continents enriching. “Online volunteering provided an opportunity for me to connect with similar minds and take part in meaningful work, overcoming cultural differences and geographical barriers,” says Beth De Beer who is from the USA and Israel. Lea-Kristin Martin from Germany also found working with other volunteers very fruitful. “I familiarized myself with a different kind of work style,” she says. “I know a lot about countries I had hardly heard of before. I now feel that it is really easy to collaborate with each other even if you are miles apart. It made the world appear a little bit smaller in a good way.”