Saturday, 16 July 2011
Under the Radar: The Contribution of Civil Society and Third Sector Organisations to eInclusion
The European Union is waking up to the "social capital" potential for ICT.
Researchers have noticed that many voluntary and community groups exist 'below the radar.'
(They may wish to stay that way to avoid the interference of the state?)
Alexandra Haché (2011) writes
"Each Third Sector Organization (TSO) has its own tradition/capacity in developing tactical uses of ICT in order to overcome its weaknesses or boost its strengths. Levels of access, uptake and appropriation of ICT are different among TSOs and their participants.
Additionally, TSO involvement with ICT ranges from using ICT simply as a tool at one extreme, to aiming expressly to have an effect on digital inclusion and social inclusion supported by ICT at the other.
The study has also shown the importance of taking into account as key actors those TSO which are “under the radar”. The large numbers of small, medium and/or ephemeral organizations in this category not only shape the variety, richness and heterogeneity of the third sector, but they also enable experimentation, innovation and exploration of new uses, training and development of ICT by citizens.
Their identification, definition and analysis constitute a challenging new field of research that should be scrutinized. Any reflection on the socio-economic importance of the third sector would be incomplete without an account of both legally-formalised TSO and informal TSO, which explore other forms of self-organisation
In particular, the analysis of initiatives shows that TSOs’ contributions to eInclusion objectives can be classified as follows:
1. Specific activities performed in favour of socially disadvantaged groups, which increasingly use new ICT as instruments to fight social exclusion. These activities include efforts to improve digital inclusion and the provision of autonomous medias.
2. New employment opportunities in a wide range of service activities. For example, TSO engage large numbers of volunteers whose only opportunity to be exposed to and practice with new ICT (beyond the passive exposure they may have when using entertainment services) may be through their work for a TSO.
3. Provision of ICT support to other TSO.
4. Research and development of ICT and the development of free culture. The report argues that most TSOs focus on the first type of activities, overlooking the potential of the rest. Therefore there is a need for a new and broader consideration of the role that the third sector can play in ICT development, access and adoption and in eInclusion.
Furthermore, analysis shows that TSO initiatives also contribute to the wider DAE objectives by:
- Supporting digital inclusion: they lower the barriers to access, training, appropriation, and usability of ICT; raise awareness and provide information so that people can critically understand and participate in debates on information and communication rights.
- Empowering users and actors / volunteers: they provide users, actors and volunteers with formal and informal training in ICT so that they can acquire a variety of competences and skills; they help to target ICT use and development to specific needs and wishes; they can transform "consumers or passive users" into "active designers, producers and developers" of contents and ICT;
- Acting as social inclusion agents: they provide solutions for very specific needs and/or small groups of people; they provide spaces and opportunities for empowerment and development of social capital and they contribute to a social economy in which resources can be produced, shared and redistributed among its participants;
- Providing a reservoir of social innovation and creativity through: self-organization and bottom-up dynamics that tackle social needs and provide for the public good; experimentation with alternative ICT development models; user-driven and communitydriven development of ICT and sustainability models that result from the social economy.
You can find the full report, which includes case studies, here.
EUR 24857 EN