The growing role of the Internet
Placing the spotlight on technology and information calls us to refocus our attention on the capacities of individuals, organizations and networks, as only these can implement and institutionalise sustainable practices. (Faye Anderson 1999)
The Internet is one of the main infrastructures through which the "information age" can become a reality. However, in terms of development, whether this reinforces the status quo or improves social well-being and equity is still a contentious topic. In general, the Internet is still used primarily for information display and retrieval, although it appears to have considerable potential in multi-stakeholder situations to extend information sharing, learning and networking. The advantages of technology are not in creating new "virtual" communities, but in strengthening already existing social networks. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges facing agencies and other information managers is how best to involve different interest groups in taking a more active participatory role in the subsequent management of this information and through this to improve planning, policy analysis and decision making. While many networking sites have always aspired to this, the advent of the Web 2.0 technologies (CSS, wikis, blogs, RSS/Atom, CMS, etc) are facilitating this more interactive web future.
Also, we should not regard users as only those with direct access to computing and Internet facilities. There is often potential for facilitators, agency staff and group leaders to serve as the interface between an Internet information system and wider stakeholder groups. In itself, the Internet has the potential to form a powerful and immediate link between these key actors. Strengthening this link is seen as a key factor which will contribute towards more effective sharing of information among the diverse range of groups involved in natural resource management.
Related information on information management, computer technology and collaborative learning can also be found through this site. For a guide to developing your own web prescence see ../web site development/.
This section also provides links to topics including current Internet uses, the emerging debate of its impact on developing countries, and how its hypermedia capabilities can be used to facilitate a distance-learning environment. The first set of links outline the emerging Web 2.0 interactive Internet environment.
- What is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and business models for the next generation of software The famous meme map alone is worth serious study and is the central work defining the interlocking elements of Web 2.0. In this article by the man who coined the term, O'Reilly touches on Web 2.0 as having more of a "gravitational core" than being a concrete set of technologies. He also introduces all the major planks of his vision of the next generation of the Web as a set of best practices from the first generation. Read this before starting the rest.
- Are you a Yes2.0 or a No2.0? In this article Bev Traynor suggests how you can tell if an organisation is ready for Web2.0. Ther are also some pertinent links made on the role of Web2.0 in supporting communities of practice.
- Using Technology to Create a New Kind of Public Commons This excerpt, taken from a recently released study entitled Citizens at the Center: A New Approach to Civic Engagement, written by Dr. Cynthia Gibson and commissioned by the Case Foundation, looks at technology and how it relates to civic engagement. Based on Gibson's interviews with researchers and experts in service and civic engagement — including CompuMentor's founder and executive director Daniel Ben-Horin — the study offers specific recommendations for providing the tools citizens need to identify problems and develop solutions. The full report can be found here on the Case Foundation site.
- TechSoup – the technology place for non-profits TechSoup.org “the technology place for nonprofits”, offers a one-stop resource for technology needs by providing free information, resources, and support.
- Alltop - Non-profits Provides a comprehensive listing of the lastest postings on non-profit and social change blogs.
The next set of links are a little older, but still current. They provide practical guidance from a range of groups who are pioneering new roles for the Internet within the fields of community-building and international development.
- CIVIC NETWORKS
Building Community on the Net
The potential for the internet to assist in the construction of social capital is explored in this paper by Scott London. True communities can only be formed through face to face contact and interaction. Virtual communities have many characteristics of true communities but lack the face to face social interaction component. Information technology can play a role in building social capital if they are used to strengthen and add to existing social networks.
- Development Communications Network (formerly the Spinning the Web Network) SDCN Using the Internet to meet the goals of sustainable development. Network members co-operate to: develop new tools and content about sustainable development, build capacity for using electronic communications more effectively, promote member information, share experiences about managing sustainable development communications.
- [Note: Currently not working] Water International Vol. 24 (2): Special section on water resources and the Internet. Key papers published in the June 1999 issue of Water International - the journal of the International Water Resources Association (IWRA).The link for each paper opens a pdf file of the complete article.
- Creating online communities
An extremely comprehensive site full of practical advice on how to use the Internet to change organisations, build partnerships and benefit communities. The stated aim of this site from the UK-based Partnerships Online is to create a
framework for thinking about real and virtual communities, existing institutions and the impact of new
media, provide links to existing resources, and act as a catalyst for new sites and projects.
Information and Communications Technologies for Development This UNDP site recognises that Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are not only a significant factor in the performance and growth of economies - the importance of which is continuously growing -,but they also represent a novel and effective tool to help advance sustainable human development (SHD). Presents a wide range of information and links in this area.
- Information technology and capacity building for the global environment (Africa case study) Considerations of building an African capacity for the effective use of information technology in environmental management are presented in the larger context of the challenges of sustainable development.
- Effective use of the Internet in seven steps. An on-line manual that aims to streamline the process to help you and your colleagues connect to the Internet to send and receive information in a way that furthers your organization's goals and objectives.
- Guidelines on the use of electronic networking to facilitate regional or global research networks This paper by Steve Song highlights some key issues to be aware of in fostering electronic collaboration.
- The Internet and Rural Development This FAO report outlines the elements of a communication for development approach applied to the
Internet and rural development, together with recommendations for strategy and activity, and an overview
of Internet activities in developing countries. The cornerstone
of this strategy is capacity building activities for rural and agricultural organizations in order to create and
enhance locally managed Internet use, tools and resources. The recommendations and project ideas in this report may be of interest to others interested in supporting activities focused on developing Internet infrastructure and
applications in developing countries. Collaboration among agencies supporting Internet and development
initiatives can achieve important "multiplier" effects as agencies harmonize their efforts while insuring
that their particular constituencies are served. The goal is for development agencies, in partnership with
stakeholders, to make full use of Internet tools such as the World Wide Web and interactive discussion
tools to assist rural development efforts.
- Information Systems for International Development This is a list of resources related to the planning and deployment of information systems in developing countries. For the most part, these links deal with the implementation of Internet tools, desktop applications and general telecommunications infrastructure in international development.
- Communication for Development, FAO SD Dimensions This site maintained by the the
FAO's Sustainable Development Department presents news, summary and
full text materials on FAO programmes/policies related to the many dimensions of development communication, including the emerging role of Internet in rural areas. Of particular interest is a special report, Wiring the South: Internet and the developing world, reporting the opinions of Southern journalists and NGOs, proposals for "communications utilities", and work on computer networks in Africa (also available in French and Spanish.
- Implementing learning technology The chapters in this site are of various types. Some are very practical, even pragmatic, accounts of certain aspects of the use of Learning Technology in teaching. Others are more theoretical in their approach and are intended to provide a context for the more practical material and to initiate thought about the processes involved in the implementation of learning technology.
- General mindtool resources As the title suggests, the idea of using computers as Mindtools involves utilizing them to facilitate student's higher order thinking versus the "drill and kill" model of a good deal of "educational" software in use today. You will find some great resources compiled here, but chances are good that you also know of some others (which you are strongly encouraged to share).
- Development and the Information
Age: Four Global Scenarios for the Future of Information and Communication Technology This IDRC book presents thoughts on four distinct futures with different measures of cooperation, protectionism, and preparedness, and provides a stark and realistic view of the relationship between the new information and communication technologies and the goal of global sustainable and equitable development. It acknowledges that the Information Revolution is producing
astonishing transformation in virtually all spheres of human activity, and asks how these technologies help to balance the scales of development between the countries of the "industrialized" world and those of the "developing" world?
- Winners and Losers in the Global Research Village A talk by Paul Ginsparg given in February 1996 that describes the rationale for putting scientific information online.