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The growing role of the Internet

Placing the spotlight on technology and information calls us to refocus our attention on the capacities of individuals, organizations and networks, as only these can implement and institutionalise sustainable practices. (Faye Anderson 1999)

The Internet is one of the main infrastructures through which the "information age" can become a reality. However, in terms of development, whether this reinforces the status quo or improves social well-being and equity is still a contentious topic. In general, the Internet is still used primarily for information display and retrieval, although it appears to have considerable potential in multi-stakeholder situations to extend information sharing, learning and networking. The advantages of technology are not in creating new "virtual" communities, but in strengthening already existing social networks. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges facing agencies and other information managers is how best to involve different interest groups in taking a more active participatory role in the subsequent management of this information and through this to improve planning, policy analysis and decision making. While many networking sites have always aspired to this, the advent of the Web 2.0 technologies (CSS, wikis, blogs, RSS/Atom, CMS, etc) are facilitating this more interactive web future.

Also, we should not regard users as only those with direct access to computing and Internet facilities. There is often potential for facilitators, agency staff and group leaders to serve as the interface between an Internet information system and wider stakeholder groups. In itself, the Internet has the potential to form a powerful and immediate link between these key actors. Strengthening this link is seen as a key factor which will contribute towards more effective sharing of information among the diverse range of groups involved in natural resource management.

Related information on information management, computer technology and collaborative learning can also be found through this site. For a guide to developing your own web prescence see ../web site development/.

This section also provides links to topics including current Internet uses, the emerging debate of its impact on developing countries, and how its hypermedia capabilities can be used to facilitate a distance-learning environment. The first set of links outline the emerging Web 2.0 interactive Internet environment.

The next set of links are a little older, but still current. They provide practical guidance from a range of groups who are pioneering new roles for the Internet within the fields of community-building and international development.

The World Wide Web holds out a great deal of promise in the area of distance learning, both within formal education and expanding "communities of practice". Because it is interactive such uses will not just be on knowledge clarification and understanding, but also on knowledge discovery, collation and presentation.

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Will Allen
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