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 mainly used for information display and retrieval, although it certainly has demonstrated its 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. The accompanying page on using the Internet provides material that may be of interest to readers wanting to look at how they can better utilise these technologies.

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.

This section is still being developed – and many of the links here are quite dated. Nonetheless, it continues to point to still relevant 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. [Note: this section of LfS is scheduled for updating in the near future.]

Public Media 2.0: Dynamic, Engaged Publics. This 2009 white paper by Jessica Clark and Patricia Aufderheide lays out an expanded vision for “public media 2.0” that places engaged publics at its core, showcasing innovative experiments from its “first two minutes,” and revealing related trends, stakeholders, and policies. Public media 2.0 may look and function differently, but it will share the same goals as the projects that preceded it: educating, informing, and mobilizing its users.

www_iconWhat 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.

www_iconAre 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.

www_iconTechSoup – the technology place for non-profits “the technology place for nonprofits”, offers a one-stop resource for technology needs by providing free information, resources, and support.

www_iconAlltop – Non-profits Provides a comprehensive listing of the lastest postings on non-profit and social change blogs.


The next set of links are even older ….    They provide practical guidance from a range of groups who have been instrumental in pioneering new roles for the Internet within the fields of community-building and international development.

www_iconCIVIC 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.

www_iconDevelopment 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.

www_iconCreating 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 www_icon 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.

www_iconInformation 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.

www_iconGuidelines 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.

www_iconThe Internet and Rural and Agricultural development – an integrated approach… This FAO report aims to promote expansion of Internet services in support of rural and agricultural development. It presents a vision of an integrated approach that can lead to the growth of vibrant rural and agricultural communication networks across nations, regions and the globe. The paper focuses both on establishing rural access to the Internet as well as on creating communication networks that help all stakeholders involved in rural and agricultural development to better communicate with one another.

www_iconInformation 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.

The World Wide Web holds out a great deal of promise in the area of distance learning, both within formal education and expanding “communities of practice”. Because it is interactive such uses will not just be on knowledge clarification and understanding, but also on knowledge discovery, collation and presentation.

www_iconImplementing 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.

www_iconGeneral 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).

The following sites provide a number of different perspectives on how the Internet may affect society in the future:

www_iconDevelopment 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?

www_iconWinners 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.

Related information on information management, computer technology and collaborative learning can also be found through this site.

[Header image: Pexels – Fabricio Trujillo]