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The role of the Internet in the civil society movement: The case of Indonesia

Date & Time:
15:00:00 - 16:30:00,
Thursday 17 April, 2008


The use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), particularly the Internet, has attracted huge interest. Despite the attention paid to research into Internet use in homes, government agencies and business firms, little attention has been paid to its use in other types of organisations such as civil society organisations (CSOs). As a result, many things remain unknown: the patterns of uptake and use of the Internet in CSOs, the process of the transformation both of the organisations and the way they use the technology, and the implication of Internet use for civil society.

This presentation is about a recent doctoral research project which attempts to address these problems. By focusing on the case of Indonesian CSOs, at a theoretical level, the research is concerned with the diffusion of Internet adoption and use and the effects on the activities of CSOs and social movements. These concerns are explored by examining two related empirical issues:

  • The links between the Internet and the organisational performances and dynamics of civil society

  • The construction of Internet diffusion and the impacts on organisations that define those links

The data were collected using a combination of methods involving online and offline surveys, in-depth interviews, direct observations, workshops, and focus groups. There were 283 CSOs from 27 provinces in Indonesia involved in the study (09/05 to 04/06). The data were analysed using simple latent class analysis, network analysis, and content analysis.

This study shows that while the increasingly pivotal positions of Indonesian CSOs mainly stems from their capacities as institutions in fostering civic engagement, their use of the Internet has contributed considerably to building these capacities including effective networking with local, national, and global counterparts.

Characteristics of civil society groups, in terms of issues, concerns and activities, affect the pattern and sequence of technology adoption, and are significant in determining leaders and laggards in Internet adoption. Internet appropriation, too, is found to be bound to these characteristics. Yet it is not straightforward: effective, strategic and political use of the Internet in CSOs is only possible when the organisations realise the potential of the technology, adopt it, then integrate its use into their organisation’s routines as part of their strategy. Such characteristics also have an effect on the stages of use and implementation as well as the strategic use of the Internet and may be a source of the difference between Internet use in CSOs and in other types of organisation. The implication of this use, observed at intra- and inter-organisation levels, affects not only CSOs’ organisational performance but their identity and role in the reshaping of socio-political life in the country.

In supporting its position, the study makes no attempt to privilege Internet diffusion (and implementation) theories over civil society (and CSO) concepts. Rather, it sets forth cases for redrawing the traditional boundaries of the concept ‘technological diffusion in organisations’ to incorporate other courses of action in the adoption and implementation of Internet technologies in civil society groups and organisations. By demonstrating that appropriation of the Internet in Indonesian CSOs plays an important role in building CSOs’ capacities and capabilities as institutions and as social movements, it paves the way for Internet diffusion and implementation to be recognised as contributing to the dynamics of civil society and reshaping politics in the country.

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  • Name: Yanuar Nugroho
  • Affiliation: Manchester Institute of Innovation Research (MIoIR/PREST), University of
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  • Bio: Yanuar Nugroho is an activist-scholar, born in Indonesia in 1972. He is now a Research Associate at the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research at the University of Manchester. Prior to his doctoral study, he had been quite active in three Indonesian NGOs: (BWI; Executive Director, now Senior Advisor), Uni Sosial Demokrat (, Unisosdem; General Secretary), and ELSPPAT (; Head of the Board Members). He still retains these activities and roles, although in a very limited capacity, whilst he is residing in the UK.