Motivations of cybervolunteers in an applied distributed computing environment: as an example


  • Viola Krebs ICVolunteers



Volunteer computing, distributed computing, cybervolunteers,, volunteer motivations, BOINC.


Research laboratories and scientific modeling projects often lack computing power to run complex simulation models solely with in-house computing resources. One form of volunteer computing uses an interface called the BOINC software platform that allows hundreds of thousands of volunteers worldwide to participate in projects such as SETI@home and, searching for extraterrestrial intelligence or contributing to research linked to malaria control. These volunteers are effectively acting as cybervolunteers, meaning volunteers who use in part or entirely a computer or the Internet for their volunteer activity. We conducted a study on the motivations of and BOINC cybervolunteers. Are volunteers only donating CPU power or are they making other contributions? Why do they participate in projects such as The aim of this paper is to present results obtained, formulate useful conclusions from them and identify patters in the motivations of volunteers that may be useful to other distributed computing projects, in particular, and the understanding of cybervolunteerism, in general. Volunteers living in 67 countries participated in our enquiry. We found that a majority of them indicated either solidarity and/or a cause as their main deciding factor for getting involved. This trend was stronger for than for general BOINC volunteers. Volunteers remained involved if they felt useful. The study clearly suggests that the recognition of cybervolunteers is important: volunteers invest their time in a project without financial compensation, but not for free. The paper also summarizes technical and communication suggestions made by volunteers with regards to and BOINC.

Author Biography

Viola Krebs, ICVolunteers

Viola Krebs is a sociolinguistic and communication specialist. She is the Founder and Executive Director of ICVolunteers, a non-profit organization focusing on communications (communication technologies, culture & languages and conference support). ICVolunteers works with a network of 10,000 volunteers worldwide. Ms. Krebs is a member of the Strategy Council of the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID) and Co-Founder of Informaticiens Sans Frontières (ISF). She, chaired several international conferences, and served from 2003 to 2005 on the Civil Society Bureau of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). She has worked in both the public and the private sector, including for People Living with HIV/AIDS (PWA), the World Economic Forum and Merrill Lynch. Viola Krebs holds a Masters in Communications and Media, as well as a Bachelor in Linguistics, Spanish and English of the University of Geneva. She is currently working on a Ph.D. focusing on the impact of the Internet on volunteers and volunteerism.




How to Cite

Krebs, V. (2010). Motivations of cybervolunteers in an applied distributed computing environment: as an example. First Monday, 15(2).