- Digital Resources
Global Movement for social Inclusion in Information Society
Pattern number within this pattern set:157
CONICET, Instituto de Investigaciones Gino Germani
The issue was how to associate diverse community networks in the world that are working on social inclusion in the Information Society, and how to smooth and creatively use the differences between these organizations, so they could use their energies for the pursuit of common goals
Community networks which, besides using the Internet as a tool for development, are also a new type of association within the digital era a new entity that places in a net the neighborhood, town or city organisations. And, by doing it through the Internet, they are released from their local anchoring (typical of the BBS and "Freenets") to project themselves in a global form through interaction and co-operation with other community and city networks. These organisations do not question Capitalism: they tend to conform global networks aiming to integrate citizens to the Information Society and to diminish or abolish the Digital Divide. A significant case is the Global Partnership, which gathers together citizens networks from Europe, EEUU, Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. These citizens' networks use computer-mediated communication (CMC), to expand their scope of activities, achieve better internal and external organization, and get articulated with citizen's movements around the world, among other uses.
Supporters of CMC-based initiatives and activists involved in civic networking argue that not only can the new media be harnessed to reverse the decline of public communication and bias, but that they offer new possibilities to surpass all there was previously achieved using old media. Some of the claims civic networks make for electronic citizens networks are: efficiency and ease access to information; new tehcnology can be harnessed to measure citizens preferences in representative democracies, and it makes easier for citizens to respond, thus making political participation easier; CMC can transform the conditions of collective political action by creating new organizational possibilities; the received wisdom will no longer be simply received, but re-processed, re-created, and re-disseminated among other citizens networks; CMC can be used to promote the access of the majority of the population to information Society, thus increasing the access possibilities to education and jobs, among other advantages.
Supporters of civic networks also claim the advantages of new media in terms of efficiency and competitiveness for the local economy (by creating micro enterprises related to informatics and telecommunications), and argue in favor of universal access to the Internet. Many explicitly make reference to a broader Habermasian view of the new media as providing a new arena of communication, a new public sphere that can replace the old one, now limited by fragmentation.
For Douglas Schuler, author of "New Community Networks: Wired for Change" (1998), new computer-based "community networks" are a recent innovation intended to help revitalize, strengthen, and expand existing people-based community networks, much in the same way that previous civic innovations have helped communities historically. He states that telecommunications are at the heart of almost all the aspects of contemporary everyday life.
From the late nineties on, citizen's networks go several steps further: they do not only use ICTs as a main support and organizational means. They claim the building of Information Society as a "New" society. In order to do that, Citizens Networks have to build partnerships between diverse social actors: communities, governments, enterprises, and Universities. Richard Lowenberg (2000) explains: "Community networks (CN) pragmatically integrate virtual communities of interests with geographic communities of place. CN, preceded by community radio and community television initiatives, continue working in and learning about the local realm of their increasingly tele-mediated society. CN are involved in extending local wired and wireless infrastructure: providing access, training and content brokering and development; provoking and facilitating new public-private networked partnerships (
· Are the social movements mentioned above representative symptoms of our present society?
· Are these social movements socially conservative or socially revolutionary?
· Have they succeeded, to the present, to make a significant political/economic/social/cultural changes among their target populations, and/or and among the society in a larger sense?
· Which common points have anti-globalization social movements and global community networks between them, and which are their main divergences? Will these movements be able to articulate themselves in the pursuit of common goals?
The solution was the creation of Global Community Network Partnership, the international alliance of organizations of civic nets of Europe, USA, Canada, in collaboration with citizens' networks in the United States, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Australia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, New Zealand, Japan, Russia, India and África. The initiative was created in Europe, with the implementation of the EPITELIO Project, developed between 1996 and 1998. This project, aimed to overcoming digital divide, and to generate a "new" society of the digital era, has a whole library dedicated to community networks (http://canet.upc.es/cn-library.html) . A firs Congress, ECN ´98, organized by Artur Serra in Barcelona in June 1998, gathered not only European representatives of community networks, but also CN members from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, United States, Canada, and Latin America. This first face-to-face contact was followed by continuous exchanges, that were concretized in a series of national and regional meetings. These meetings built a "track" that led to the I World Congress of Community Networks, Global CN 2000, which took place in Barcelona, on November 2-4, 2000. One of its main outcomes was the agreement of a Global Community Networks Partnership.
The Barcelona Congress was promptly followed by the II World Congress of Community Networks, Global CN 2000, that took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on December 5-7, 2001. One of its main outcomes was the establishing of the Guidelines for a Global CN Partnership organization and common actions
(The Buenos Aires Agreement). It sates that the GCNP "can be a new experimental framework to be invented together (instead of copying traditional formulas); A partnership open to CN organizations and individuals and also academic, public and private organizations; Sharing common values and aims also open to change".
The Global CN congress is now the annual meeting of the civic networks, as well as of people interested in their reinforcement, from all over the world. Citizens´networks are the novel forms of civic associations of our digital era. They play an important role in the strenghtening of social networks, in any given population´s access and tools to use the knowledge and work opportunities of the Information Society, in citizens´ participation in local policy making, the creation of better working conditions, and the generation of innovative enterprises. Civic networks means different things to the different practitioners now spread around the world. However, we are reaching a collabotive way of work that facilitates the global as well as local work and actions.