What are the strategic uses of the Internet in Indonesian CSOs?

Monday, 31 December 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

The word ‘strategic’ is among the most frequent used terms found in the entire fieldwork of this study. When investigating the strategic areas in which the Internet could be used, interviews, workshops and focus groups were overwhelmed with the term so much so that it is now urgent to understand what it really means in the context of this study. Interviews with Indonesian CSO leaders gives us a hint: Internet use is considered strategic when it addresses certain characteristic related to (i) properties of the tools or means being used; (ii) orientation of action for which the tools are used (iii) issues to which the action is tackling, and (iii) actors who perform and are affected by the action.

This study therefore defines “strategic use of the Internet” as an enactment and/or appropriation of particular characteristics of the Internet to perform specific actions within certain issues to achieve specific goals which are perceived to be meaningful not only by the actors doing the actions but also by others affected by the actions.

Based on the fieldwork investigation, particularly interviews [of 46 CSO activists representing 35 organisations] and workshops [of 94 participants representing 72 organisations], the study endeavours to look at the following areas which are abundantly referred to by the CSOs involved in the study. There are five areas in which the Internet could be used strategically to achieve the mission and goals of the organisations, i.e. (1) collaboration, (2) mobilisation, (3) empowerment and development, (4) research and publication, and (5) advocacy and monitoring.

Collaboration: The Internet has provided a platform for wider collaboration not only within organisations but also between organisations. Among strategic collaboration work is networking and coalition building which are found salient among Indonesian CSOs.

Mobilisation: While unable to replace work like mobilisation, the Internet provides tools to help with such work. Included in the mobilisation are campaigns and urgent calls for action which can be facilitated by simple-but-powerful tools like emails and mailing lists.

Empowerment and development: The Internet can provide alternative opinion and information, which constitutes an important dimension for empowerment. It can also help spreading awareness and invite real participation in various development programmes and agendas of improvement of livelihood.

Research and publication: The Internet has brought a new dimension for civil society both in terms of data and information acquisition as research input (information in), and for dissemination of publication as research output (information out).

Advocacy and monitoring: The Internet has become an effective tool in helping to shape public opinion which is crucial for successful advocacy work like rallies, protests, or lobbying. As more information is available and transparent on the Net, the technology also becomes a convenient means for monitoring development in a certain field.

Certainly, the boundaries between above the areas are fluid. For example, an online campaign is often a combination of advocacy, mobilisation and collaboration. For CSOs, this fluid boundary is both a challenge and an opportunity, as evidently presented in this chapter. While there is a need for a frame to discuss CSOs’ use of the Internet, there is also need for flexibility because often it is the interplay between the areas of use that is most fascinating and intriguing –as already shown in this study.

Source: Interviews, workshops, and author’s reflection.
(PhD Thesis, Nugroho, 2007:230 – Box 6.7.)

Picture for this post is taken fom APC website (www.apc.org)

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