IT volunteers: Voluntary intellectual assistance

IT volunteers: Voluntary intellectual assistance

The last few years have seen a boom in volunteer movements in Russia. People have been helping animal shelters, children’s homes, older persons, homeless people, and socially vulnerable groups. Intellectual volunteering holds a special place among the volunteer corps activities. Few people know that one of them is IT assistance, perhaps one the most unconventional kinds of free professional help.

IT volunteers: Voluntary intellectual assistance

IT volunteering is a relatively new phenomenon, which emerged when nonprofit organizations and charities realized that the digital age requires digital solutions. However, no funds had been yet allocated to that purpose. Then some IT workers, who were not indifferent to the idea, but rather willing to make a modest contribution to the development of the website and donation system as well as set up a newsletter, lent a helping hand. And more importantly, they were ready to do it for free, on a voluntary basis.

A little bit later it turned out that what they needed was a platform where all comers could help find those who needed this type of assistance. That is how websites like IT Volunteer, Digital Volunteer and others were created. They are similar to tutor finder systems. The organizer creates a task and starts looking for a specialist willing to complete it for free.

However, such platforms are guided by certain internal standards. For instance, they do not help political parties or religious organizations; instead, they only aid nonprofit projects whose primary goal is to help people. In a sense, they are volunteers helping volunteers. Also, these websites adopt strict application moderation policies to prevent fraud.

IT volunteering is something that both beginner specialists who need to build a portfolio to start a career (and want to do this mindfully) and professionals with great expertise who don’t want to waste their free time do.

IT volunteering tasks differ greatly as well: some people are looking for entire teams able to develop websites, and others just need a Telegram bot. That said, the ones to become digital volunteers are often entire teams who decided to make volunteering part of their work culture. All of this is not alien to big companies either—they give their employees the opportunity to do something valuable for the society. They even grant them paid hours of volunteer time off, which are free for the contractor. However, most IT volunteers still prefer to look for projects themselves and engage in them in their spare time.

Parts of the IT volunteering community later grow into full-fledged companies, such as smaller design studios or development teams comprised of people with shared values and outlook on their career advancement. This once again confirms that volunteering can not only benefit the society but also stimulate personal and career growth through horizonal networking. 

The ways to become an IT volunteer and the doors such voluntary assistance opens will be discussed at the session on “IT Volunteers and Information Security: Digital Innovation for the Benefit of Society” of the 3rd Youth Internet Governance Forum, which will take place at the Digital Business Center in Moscow on May 12, 2023.

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