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social change

social change

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APPROPRIATING THE INTERNET FOR SOCIAL CHANGE:
TOWARDS THE STRATEGIC USE OF NETWORKED TECHNOLOGIES BY
TRANSNATIONAL CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS
Version 1.0
Social Science Research Council
November 2003
Prepared by:
Mark Surman
&
Katherine Reilly

This report is a publication of the Information Technology and International Cooperation program at the Social Science Research Council which is generously funded by the Ford Foundation. For more information about our program, please contact us at (212) 377-2700 (p) oritic@ssrc.org. Copies of the report can be downloaded athttp://www.ssrc.org/programs/itic/.

Table of Contents
1. INTRODUCTION....................................................................................................................................1
MAPPING OUT STRATEGIC USE.......................................................................................................................2
WHAT WOULD THE WORLD LOOK LIKE?.........................................................................................................3
2. LANDSCAPE...........................................................................................................................................6

REACHING FOR A CIVIL SOCIETY....................................................................................................................6 FROM ACCESS TO APPROPRIATION.................................................................................................................9 WHAT DOES CIVIL SOCIETY DO ONLINE?.....................................................................................................13

3. COLLABORATION..............................................................................................................................16

WHAT IS ONLINE COLLABORATION?............................................................................................................17 CASE #1 \u2013 FRIENDS OF THEEARTHINTERNATIONAL..................................................................................18 CASE #2 \u2013 JUBILEE 2000..............................................................................................................................21 CASE #3 \u2013 SUMMERSOURCE.......................................................................................................................23

4. PUBLISHING.........................................................................................................................................27

WHAT IS ONLINE PUBLISHING?.....................................................................................................................28 CASE #1 \u2013 INSTITUTO DELTERCERMUNDO(ITEM)....................................................................................29 CASE #2 - ONEWORLD.................................................................................................................................31 CASE #3 - INDYMEDIA..................................................................................................................................33

5. MOBILIZATION...................................................................................................................................37

WHAT IS ONLINE MOBILIZATION?................................................................................................................39 CASE #1: ORGANIZING AGAINST THEMAI.................................................................................................. 4 0 CASE #2: ORGANIZINGSEATTLE..................................................................................................................42 CASE #3: BIWATERCENSORSHIPCASE........................................................................................................44

6. OBSERVATION...................................................................................................................................48

WHAT IS ONLINE OBSERVATION?.................................................................................................................50 CASE #1 - OLISTICA...................................................................................................................................51 CASE #2 \u2013 SARAI/ WAAGEXCHANGE.........................................................................................................53 CASE #3 - CITIZENLAB.................................................................................................................................56

7. EMERGENCE........................................................................................................................................60
8. CONCLUSIONS.....................................................................................................................................62

EQUITY(NORTH+ SOUTH)............................................................................................................................62 IMPACT (POLITICS)........................................................................................................................................64 TRUST(COLLABORATION)............................................................................................................................65 SUSTAINABILITY (MONEY)...........................................................................................................................65 ENCLOSURE(1.0 VS2.0)............................................................................................................................... 6 6 A MOVEMENT AFOOT?..................................................................................................................................67 A WAY FORWARD? (AKA RECOMMENDATIONS)...........................................................................................69

BIBLIOGRAPHY......................................................................................................................................73
APPENDIX 1: INGO, ODA AND CONNECTIVITY FIGURES..........................................................82
Appropriating the Internet for Social Change
1
1. INTRODUCTION
Every technological innovation is ambiguous, with the potential for both utopia and dystopia.
Gustavo Lins Ribeiro
It is not just about building the tools anymore. Now it\u2019s about what people use the tools to do.
Howard Rheingold

As civil society, we are confronted with an opportunity \u2013 to use the Internet and other emerging network
technologies to support our quest for global peace and social justice. Consider that we currently live in a
world where almost anyone located in an urban centre can share their message globally with a freeblog
and a few dollars spent at an Internet caf\u00e9. Access is not\u2013 or will not for much longer be \u2013 a major
communications stumbling block for civil society organizations. The much more pressing need is for civil
society to learn how to appropriate the network technologies that we now have access to, bending and
molding them so that they can be used more strategically and politically. While we can point to examples
of innovative and exciting civil society applications, most organizations have not moved beyond e-mail
and basic web sites \u2013 and they have certainly not moved on to what might be called the \u2018strategic use\u2019 of
these technologies. Put simply, the tools are in our hands, but most if us have not yet decided what to
build.

Certainly, the battle for access is not completely finished. Yet, it has changed to the point where the
concept of the digital divide as gulf between access haves and have-nots has become far too simplistic a
concept to have any value whatsoever. A document by the Sarai / Waag Exchange \u2013 a South Asian /
European new media research collaborative \u2013 states this case eloquently: \u201cWe have passed the stage of the
one-way \u2018technology transfer\u2019 and arrived in the age of global collaboration. This is not to say that
worldwide economic inequality has all but disappeared overnight due to the arrival of the computer.
However, the image of the \u2018digital divide\u2019 is a much too passive description for the titanic turmoil caused
by proliferation of new technologies on a planetary scale. The drive to communicate and exchange, even
under the very difficult circumstances (wars, ethnic conflicts, economic crisis, poverty) is such a powerful
one. It is creating instant \u2018cultures of access\u2019, either in the urban sprawls or in the deprived remote areas.\u201d
(Sarai / Waag, 2000) Amidst this pleasant chaos, there is no question that threats to our networks exist.
We no doubt face attempts by large private ISPs to enclose the Internet (Meikle, 2002 and Rheingold,
2003), the strengthening of regressive intellectual property regulations and the emergence of online
surveillance regimes1 (O\u2019Siochru, 2003). However, these are not simple issues of access as presented by
those who are screaming about the urgency of addressing the digital divide. Rather, they are aspects of a
complex cultural and network ecosystem that includes not only access but also the process of adopting and
appropriating network technologies.

This issue of appropriation \u2013 using networked technologies strategically, politically, creatively \u2013 is
amongst the most pressing that civil society faces in the information society. The big question is: what
should we do with these networked technologies now that we have access to them? Looking at the limited
research available about the use of these technologies by civil society organizations, one can surmise that
most civil society organizations have some sort of access to computers, word processors and e-mail(see

Chapter 2 for more on this). But how are they using them? By all accounts, the broad majority of civil

society organizations are struggling with the issue of how to mold these tools to meet their needs \u2013 to
increase the impact of campaigns, projects and programs using networked technologies. Or, in many
cases, they are simply using them without any thought about where and how these technologies fit into the
political work for which they feel so much passion. It is not that these organizations use networked
technologies completely without question or critique, but rather that they don't take the time to consider
how they can be using these technologies most strategically.

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