eRiders are many things to many people but their main aim is to make organizations more effective, efficient and innovative through the use of all forms of technology.
A standard defintion of an eRider: "The formal role of the [eRiders] is best defined, in the words of one leading advocate and practitioner, as "part trainer, part management consultant, part computer expert. They provide consulting and assistance with technology strategy development, make multiple visits to the organizations they serve, and provide advice and information by phone and e-mail. They can serve regional constituencies by travel from a central location." In the best circumstances, [eRiders] may even "cross-pollinate" the groups they service, transmitting insights, tools, and tips as they travel throughout the sector. In addition, training materials and resources can be used at multiple sites thereby spreading the development cost out across a number of organizations." - From the CompassPoint Circuit Rider Evaluation Report
Below are several examples of the kinds of work an eRider performs:
On the 31st of January, we studied the anatomy of the computer. All seven members of our staff and one volunteer were present. The eRider made a banner and attached it to the wall: “Don’t be scared.” She placed the processor on the operating table and gave each of us a screwdriver. We were encouraged to unscrew everything, to take this sacred machine apart and to put it back together however we liked. It was wonderful. Until this experience we were afraid to damage the computer-- we were tentative to touch the exterior and would have, under no circumstances, actually taken the machine apart. Of course, we do not repair our computers on a regular basis, but the eRider helped us to overcome our fear of this mystical machine.
Positive Side Effects
There was a very positive side effect of the eRider training at our office. You see, we have a technical coordinator who works part time, but he was never very interested in our activities. He would respond to our “emergency” calls with little enthusiasm, silently fix the problem, and then leave again. However, when the eRider began training the entire staff, showing them how beneficial technology could be for our work- and for the people we are trying to help- well, then Pasha became very interested in our activities. At one point he actually said, “Aha, so that’s what you are all doing in here.” Pasha Sukhoveev spends a lot more time in the office these days. He spends more time helping our staff, and he talks through technical issues aloud while working on the system. He has even decided, voluntarily, to create a record of the organization’s technical development.
ICTs Attract Volunteers
ICTs have been an attractive force for NGOs hoping to attract volunteers. One of Astana’s NGOs was having a particularly difficult time recruiting volunteers. The eRider organized a meeting and made a presentation to prospective volunteers. He stressed the opportunity for the volunteers to develop ICT skills while working with the organization. One individual expressed interest in developing database skills and is currently working on a project with the eRider. Since the meeting, two more volunteers have joined the organization and have initiated projects under the supervision of the eRider.
The First Day
After weeks of eRider training on technology and consulting issues, an optimistic eRider went to her first NGO, expecting her skills and the Technology Assessment Form to get her through the initial interview. She was confident and ready to build the capacity of any NGO. However, upon entering the office, she realized there was not even a desk at which to sit. The emptiness of the room closed in on her expectations. She had been taught not to present herself as an expert, but her quickly diminishing self-confidence made everyone a bit confused. Instead of working through the Technology Assessment Form on her lap, she sat in the office and read a book on practical tips for consultants. Practice makes perfect.