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International NGO Online Advocacy Best Practices

 Using the Internet for Advocacy and Community-Building:
Successful NGO Case Studies for the New Millennium

Annual Civitas Board Meeting
Strasbourg, France
December 9-11, 1998

A Presentation by John Aravosis - President, Wired Strategies
Washington, DC - USA

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This is an outline synopsis of a two-hour presentation

  "This victory is in large part due to the Internet... For the first time, a coalition of NGOs has had an influence on the security of the entire world without being a superpower."
Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize, December 1997  

I. Introduction
In 1989, as Chinese troops quash a democracy movement in Tiananmen Square in 1989, dissidents communicate with the outside world by fax, and TV networks use satellites to send out chilling footage.  In 1999, after an American missile attack on Belgrade accidentally targeted the Chinese embassy, Chinese students used the Internet to hack the Web pages of US governments agencies.  The age of the Internet has arrived.

II. Myths Debunked by this Presentation
   A. No one is online except Americans.
   B. Europe and America are online, but no one else.
   C. Some developing countries are online, but not their NGOs.
   D. Developing country NGOs are online, but they're not doing advocacy.
   E. Internet-based NGO advocacy doesn't work.

III. Internet Demographics
While estimates vary, there were reportedly147 million online users in the fall of 1998, worldwide (est.), with 327 million users estimated by the year 2000.   And while in Europe and North America 1 in every 4-6 people are online, only 1 in 500 people are online in Africa. 
So it's a mixed bag - some countries have great access, many appear not to. (See chart comparing 20 countries' Internet use).

IV. There are possible constraints to using the Internet with NGOs
   A. Data suggests not much access to Internet in many countries.
   B. Teledenisty is low.
   C. Internet and computer skill levels are low in many countries, or only exist within select population.
   D. It's hard to learn to use a computer.
  
   Conclusion: With so many problems, some might say "why bother?"   But perhaps that's a bit too pessimistic.

V. There is reason for optimism
   A. Internet access is growing incredibly in many developing countries - e.g., Thailand, China, Brazil, Africa.
   B. There are creative ways around phone access problems - e.g., Serbia.
   C. Alternatives offer potential for increased phone use in developing countries.
   D. Many developing countries already have a good base of core Net users.
   E. Efforts to wire developing countries are increasing - e.g., Africa, Chile, Mexico.
   In fact, statistics are more pessimistic than reality.

VI. The Reality
NGOs and others - many of which are outside the United States - are already using the Internet to:
   A. Advocate
a specific political agenda - e.g., Serbia, Indonesia, Uganda, East Timor, Burma, Zapatistas, Congo, Nigeria, Egypt, Mexico, China, Switzerland, Malaysia, South Africa.
   B. Create more open government - e.g., Senegal, Philippines, Spain, South Africa, Germany, Russia, USA.
   C. Build online communities - e.g., Chile, Mexico, Southern Africa, North Africa, micro-credit, Greece, Zambia.
   D. Increase communication between the media and the public - e.g., USA, Brazil, Bangladesh.
   E. Educate and assist the government, public, and like-minded NGOs - e.g., France, USA.

VII. NGO Online Advocacy Case Studies
   A. Serbian opposition.
   B. Landmine Campaign.
   C. Indonesian Students.
   D. African Pro-Democracy Organizations.
   E. Children's Defense Fund (USA).
   F. National Education Association (USA).
   G. Top Tips for Cyber-Advocacy.

VIII. Conclusions
   A. There are a wide variety of tools associated with the Internet.

  • Web pages
  • email
  • bulletin boards
  • video
  • audio

   B. There are a wide variety of strategies for using Internet tools to advocate and build communities.

  • Use email lists of media contacts to send online press releases, story ideas
  • Post Web page photos to provide evidence of wrong-doing (e.g., torture), media resources
  • Post audio and video of speeches, commercials, events to circumvent media "censors"
  • Use bulletin boards to share information, plan, meet like minds.
  • Use email to express concerns to elected officials, the press (letters to editor, op-eds)
  • Use Web and email to solicit feedback, provide and share information (e.g., news, articles) between elected officials and the citizens, or between NGOs and their board or members
  • Use Web and email to solicit funds

   C. In spite of the sometimes dour demographic statistics, a good many NGOs, governments, and others around the world are already online.

   D. In spite of legitimate concerns about infrastructure and technical prowess, the Internet is already being used around the world for significant advocacy and community-building activities.

   E. The Internet is a proven tool for NGO advocacy even in developing countries.

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Wired Strategies has conducted Internet presentations, workshops and strategies in the US, Europe, and Africa.  Read more about our international experience, our services, and our qualifications.   Or contact us directly at 202/328-5707, or email us at info@wiredstrategies.com.

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