Using the Internet for Advocacy and Community-Building:
Successful NGO Case Studies for
the New Millennium
Annual Civitas Board Meeting
December 9-11, 1998
A Presentation by John Aravosis - President, Wired Strategies
Washington, DC - USA
This is an outline synopsis of a
"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
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
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
D. Developing country NGOs are online, but they're not
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
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
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,
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
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.
E. Children's Defense Fund (USA).
F. National Education Association (USA).
G. Top Tips
A. There are a wide variety of tools associated with
- Web pages
- bulletin boards
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
- 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
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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