Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Electronic Peace Corp - How would it work?

There's nothing new under the sun. I googled the term "electronic peace corp" and found references going back to 1984. I should have realised that somebody would have thought of this long ago. However, I though I'd describe how such a scheme might work in the web 2.0 era.

The whole enterprise depends upon easy access to broadband internet connections, Now this may sound like a utopian idea to those who live and work in poor countries, yet as I said yesterday, the massive growth of mobile phone usage in places like Africa means that setting up wifi networks over large areas is not just a crazy dream. In addition, the introduction of the $100 laptop means that many more people will have the tools to access the internet within the next five years.

How would it work?

Once problems of access have been overcome I envisage that the Electronic Peace Corp would be an internet space akin to Ebay. In the sense that "buyers" and "sellers" seek each other out rather than being directed by a central authority. The idea would be that those who want to volunteer their time and expertise would advertise or seek out those who most need it. And vice versa.So, for example, I, as an ESL/EFL teacher might decide to cooperate with a colleague in secondary school in Ghana or Laos.

You would sign up, giving details of your professional background, interests, preferences and level of commitment - which could be anything from volunteering to spend an hour a week at your PC to actually going there to help.

The Ebay model

However, there is the possibility that the system might be abused. For example I might say that I'm an experienced engineer or pretend to be a professor when in fact I'm nothing of the sort. Like Ebay each person or group would be subject a rating system. Everybody would have to "earn their stripes". Any bad behaviour would earn negative reviews. Similarly, those who work well and effectively garner better ratings in the same way sellers on Ebay do.

Using Voip/ Video

The other major plank of this service would be voip/video services such as Skype. This would allow real time communication in spoken form and so anyone who is not a fluent in say, written English, or even their mother tongue could participate. Pictures/video taken by cell phone cameras and sent via the web would also get round the need for lengthy or complicated descriptions.

Even the language barrier would not prove insurmountable as people could volunteer their services as interpreters/translators via skypecasts. For example, a America doctor could discuss a patient with a nurse in Cambodia while a Khmer speaking Cambodia-American translates via a skypecast.

What about this for a name? The Walking Wiki (WaKi)

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