There is little you can do without a computer these days. Have you ever stopped to think how many tech devices you own? Could you imagine life without them?
Computers are convenient and take over boring admin tasks for you (without taking over the world as predicted in Sci-Fi movies). In many developing countries, technology hasn't permeated as deeply and residents lack the basic knowledge that could provide additional skills and income-generation opportunities.
Although smartphone penetration rates are relatively high all across the globe, many people in poor, rural areas still don't know how to use a computer. As a volunteer teaching computer literacy abroad, you can help to teach basic skills that make a huge difference.
Where to Go
We can no longer imagine our lives without a personal computer, and we seem to do everything with the help of one or more devices, but there are countries where that is not a reality. If you have software or hardware skills, you can volunteer overseas and put your experience to work for the development of local communities in many destinations. Here are a few of our suggestions.
Undeniably one of the most beautiful places in Central America, Guatemala is also one of the poorest countries with the lowest literacy rate in the region. Once the cradle of the Ancient Mayan civilization, the country endured 36 years of a civil war that began in 1960 and has been slowly recovering from that bloody past.
Out-of-this-world landscapes and Mayan ruins as your everyday scenery are small bonuses when you get to be a part of a local community’s leap into the tech future.
The “Land of Smiles” probably isn’t the first country that comes to mind when you’re thinking about computer literacy volunteer abroad programs. Thailand boasts an advanced economy, with Bangkok serving as one of the biggest trading and manufacturing hubs in the region. However, the rural areas still lag behind.
For example, if you have knowledge of accounting or stock management, there's potential to help local businesses -- which are experiencing tremendous growth from the country's tourism boom -- better manage their businesses. After all, numbers are a universal language.
Economic growth in this West African country has been significant, but the opportunity gaps between North and South, men and women, and rich and poor still run deep.
For example, joining volunteer programs in Ghana that empower women and girls with technology can spark a positive ripple-effect that can accelerate their economic growth and independence. Teaching basic computer skills means Ghanaian women and girls will have better chances of getting jobs, thereby reducing the rates of teen pregnancy and child marriages.
Despite cities like Bangalore being called the Silicon Valley of India, the country’s discrepancies between wealthy and poor, educated and illiterate are as vast as the country itself.
Online courses that are considered affordable in western countries translate into a bigger investment and financial sacrifice for Indian citizens, especially women. Many volunteer programs in India are beginning to focus on women's empowerment through technology and could use your help.
Teaching Basic Operation Skills
The communities you’ll be helping through volunteering in this type of program may have never had much contact with computers before. In this case, you’ll be helping them learn basic skills like word processing and basic internet browsing.
You don't need advanced computer science skills for this type of volunteer work, but you should be interested in teaching.
Assisting with Specific Tasks
These days, business skills and computer skills go hand-in-hand. For small business owners in the emerging markets, additional skills and technological resources for keeping track of things like employee working hours, stock management, and credit card payments are incredibly helpful.
You might also help schools or community organizations learn to make a basic website or set up some spreadsheets for financial management.
This type of program can have a huge impact on a community’s self-sustainability. Learning how to set up a computer network or how to connect to a WiFi router on their own not only means potential job opportunities for local citizens, but also prepares small businesses to be self-sufficient when it comes to their IT needs.
As we rely more and more on technology, coding will be one of the most important job skills in the future. With plenty of online courses that anyone can take remotely, coding classes aren’t yet accessible worldwide.
Teaching local students to build something as simple as static web pages while you share your skills in HTML and CSS is an incredibly rewarding experience and hugely beneficial for them.
Planning Your Trip
You’re about to embark on one of the most fulfilling experiences of your life. You’re also bound to come back from your volunteer abroad trip with a different view of the world, your role in it, and how you can continue to contribute to the bigger picture. Maximize the outcome of your experience with careful planning before you go.
How to Choose a Computer Literacy Volunteer Abroad Program
For computer literacy programs, you'll want to carefully consider how long you want to spend volunteering abroad before you choose a program. Programs range from just a few weeks to several months, so have a good notion of how long you want to dedicate to this work.
You'll also want to select an opportunity that is best suited to your skill set. List all your skills by level of expertise and look for a program where your knowledge will add value. Remember that these programs are all about helping a community thrive, so your desire to just get to know an exotic destination should be a little lower down on your priority list.
To maximize your experience and cultural exchange with the local community, opt for a program where you can stay with a host family. If you want your volunteering work to have the largest impact possible, choose a program that lets you define the duration of your contribution so you don’t feel like you’ve left too soon.
Health & Safety
Most of the countries that are open for volunteer work in this area are experiencing long periods of political stability and are eager to integrate with the rest of the world.
Some of these volunteer abroad programs will have you living in remote areas and, most certainly, all of them will have you experience a completely new way of life. Make sure you’ve taken all recommended vaccines and stock up on any prescription medication before leaving. If you’re staying outside a major urban area, ordinary medical supplies may be harder or more expensive to get, so you might want to pack extra over-the-counter pills for unexpected illnesses.
Other Need to Know
Be mindful of your level of expertise and your motivation to teach. The local community will benefit much more if you're passionate about what you're doing and bring if your impact in their lives is greater than teaching them how to turn on a monitor. Be aware of local customs and, when in doubt, ask other Go Overseas alumni before you leave or before you make a decision about a program.