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[FYI] NGOs and the Internet: Use and Repercussions


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NGOs and the Internet: Use and Repercussions

Giorgio Di Pietro, IPTS

Issue: Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have played
a major role in making non-governmental organizations’ (NGOs) voices
heard more loudly by citizens and governments around the world.

Relevance: Thanks partly to the use of ICTs, NGOs have gained an
important place on the international scene. This not only poses new
challenges for sovereign states, but at the same time, counter-
technologies leading to more intrusive electronic policing are being
developed and used, thus raising different and perhaps deeper

Perhaps one the most important reasons why over the last decade
national governments and international organizations were gradually
forced to share their powers with a multitude of citizens groups,
known as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), lies in the evolution
of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Advanced ICTs
have increased NGO’s ability to mobilize information strategically to
help to create new issues, to persuade, apply pressure and gain



In conclusion, there is evidence that ICTs, and especially the
Internet and e-mail, have made NGOs more effective at contacting
people, in organising events, in establishing networks and in
disseminating information about their activity. Thanks to advanced
ICTs NGOs have experienced rapid growth in their power in the policy-
making arena. The protests organised by NGOs against the WTO meeting
in Seattle, against the IMF and World Bank in Washington and against
the Multilateral Agreement on Investment and the important
contribution of NGOs to the setting up of the International Criminal
Court are only some examples of their influence in the decision-
making process at international level. One should also recall the
importance of ICTs in establishing NGO networks. ICTs are key to NGOs
and will continue playing a vital role also in the future. In the
present circumstances many NGOs are adapting to fast technological
change through the creation of portals to sustain the promotion of
their voices in the Internet.

On the other hand, some may suggest that electronic surveillance
technologies already deployed by police authorities will, among other
things, limit the effectiveness of such tools for activists. The
profound concern raised in this context is whether such policing
measures are too intrusive and sacrifice too much, in terms of
privacy, freedom of expression, etc., on the altar of tighter


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