The World Health Organisation statistics for Lao PDR for 2005 say the average life expectancy at birth for male/females is 59/61 years old. This is a stark differencce of 20 years when compared to Australia’s 79/84 years old but it wasn’t so long ago that Australians faced a similar life span. Australia’s life expectancy at birth from 1901-10 it was 55-59. In 1920-22 it was 59/63*. Australians lived as long as the people in Laos do now only two to three generations ago. My grandparents would have faced something even worse by being born in China during the 1910s.

I have an idea on how to use the web to help development organisations. I call it the outsourced volunteer. I imagine a website where development organisations can submit any work they need done. The type of work must be able to be done over the internet. It should involve foreign expertise not easily or cheaply available domestically. The kind of work stuff expensive foreign consultants are often hired for. Examples could be helping to edit English documents, building a website, or writing a policy document.

Outsourced volunteers around the world could then browse the website and volunteer their time and skills towards any of the advertised projects. The idea is similar to open source software development and it’s a coincidence that both areas share the common word of development. The potential of outsourcing should not be limited to for-profit endeavours. I think it has huge potential to help development organisations.

Outsourced volunteers would have a reputation rating on the website. The more volunteer projects an outsourced volunteer does, the more their reputation increases and the more prestige they will enjoy.

Outsourcing is something that those with left wing tendencies, the majority of those working in development, may cringe against. Perhaps this is why, to my limited knowledge, development organisations seem to be extremely adverse to the idea of outsourcing. Much can be said to criticise the money wasted on highly paid overseas consultants working in the development. Flying into the poorest developing countries is usually very expensive, as is staying at a nice hotel, being chauffeured around in a four wheel drive, eating western food and other activities that maintain a western lifestyle. If outsourcing saves organisations these expenses that they can instead be utilised in other areas of need then that’s a good thing.

The politics of those running development organisations may make they adverse to paid outsourcing. That makes unpaid outsourced volunteers a more palatable compromise for the left leaning.

The first question to ask about any idea is: has anyone else already thought of this and started doing it?


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