Framing attributes of Internet adoption in CSOs: Miles’ approach

Sunday, 30 December 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

How can perceived attributes [in the adoption of the Internet in Indonesian CSOs] be explained within diffusion theory and CSO study at the same time? Ian Miles (1996) provides an insight to understand competing perspective in ICTs. In his work, he departs from the concern about the classic debate on ‘consensus v. conflict’ which has long been pathological in social science –that in fact also perfectly matches with the spectrum of ‘activism paradigm’ in CSOs*.

miles-typology.jpg
Typology of Views of ICT and information society
Source: Miles (1996:41)

Miles’ work is grounded around the prominent theme of ‘expanding information opportunities v. growing information inequalities’, which might be helpful to understand the latent problem of access availability or digital divide issue underlying the adoption process in developing economies like Indonesia (Miles, 1996:39-40). To him, there are two important dimensions underlying the debate on the social implications of ICTs, i.e. dimension of depth and width. In the dimension of depth, it is the speed and extent of ‘change’ which is very much influential, with continuist and transformist at the extremes. In the dimension of width, it is the extent of control that matters, with concordist competing against antagonist (Miles, 1996:38-40). For both dimensions, Miles offers structuralism to remedy the ills by looking for synthesis as it recognises that a diversity of actors confront a multiplicity of choices which lead to many possible outcomes.

In this light it can be seen that most of the attributes of the Internet as innovation, in this study, are perceived as such by organisations which are closer to concordist and transformist model. This is of no surprise when the nature of CSOs is taken into account. For CSOs believe that they deliver social transformation to the society, the Internet is consistently and consequently perceived, and used, as a technology which enables them to challenge the bases of political power and change the interaction of social classes. This is similar to what transformists’ think of ICTs (Miles, 1996). Coordination of various urban poor rallies by UPLINK, advocacy endeavours for migrant workers carried out by ECOSOC, challenging labour market flexibility policy by TURC or criticising state’s policy towards debt for development often addressed by INFID (interview with UPLINK, 24/11/2005, ECOSOC, 29/10/2005, TURC, 3/03/2006 and INFID, 1/12/2005), are clear examples.

Similar instances can also be found in how ELSPPAT facilitates the network for CSOs working in organic farming and sustainable agriculture to the extent that the government finally adopted these ideas into policy at various levels (Waspotrianto, interview, 28/10/2005); or how Yayasan SET animated the NGO coalition for ‘freedom of information act’ (FOIA) and managed to push the government to ratify the relevant bills (Kristiawan, interview 28/10/2005). For such organisations, Internet might strongly be perceived as revolutionary as it offers benefits to carry out organisations’ missions and goals in a way that was unprecedented in the past.

Perhaps because of their context (i.e. in a transition economy, or in a “transition to democracy” as in the case of Indonesia) Indonesian CSOs also see the Internet as a technology which brings liberation and promotes democracy, which is close to concordists’ belief (Miles, 1996). DEMOS, for example believes that the Internet can bring together fragmented elements in social movement in rebuilding democracy in Indonesia (Prajasto, interview, 17/01/2006). This is a belief also shared by Yayasan Duta Awam and AKATIGA; that the Internet helps the networking of CSOs for fostering democracy, promoting decentralisation (which became important in Indonesia after the fall of the authoritarian regime) and empowering grassroots through alternative education and other practical networking like in the case of SMEs or rural groups (Sari, interview, 19/12/2005; Riza, interview, 30/11/2005). Clearly, the Internet is seen as technology that facilitates a new form of cooperation and networking in communities, assists education and training needs and bridging different groups to come together as social force. (*)

Source: Miles (1996), interview from fieldwork, and author’s reflection
* See Chapter Four Section 4.1.1. Sphere of activism for more detailed accounts.
(PhD Thesis, Nugroho, 2007:175 – Box 5.1.)

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