Justification for the MISTICA Project
Since the end of the 80's, several groups of the civil society were convinced of the possibilities offered by what was called the CMC "communication by computer". They invested time and energy in trying to give power to the users of these technologies in order to transform them, through a process of appropriation, into a key instrument for development, susceptible to reducing the differences existing between the North and the South. These groups grew as technology evolved, integrating the information component
2 and transforming; during the second part of the 90's, into a new media attracting the attention of all actors of society, from those running businesses to those in public office. The somewhat utopian visions of the initial period have been adapted according to new realities where the same technology seems to be capable of serving different interests, such as economic globalization or democracy with participation.
This very quick evolution, the transformations of a society in which information has a central role and the real difficulties existing to measure the impact of this technology, from the user's viewpoint, left us with a collection of very optimistic working hypotheses, regarding the advantages of the uses of the NICTs in communities working for development. Nevertheless, the hypotheses have not been confronted by the reality of the field. The studies measuring impacts are scarce as in the case of descriptive data about groups of users. In addition, such studies are not easy due to the need for establishing differences between the levels of appropriation of technologies contributing towards development
On the other hand, in many regions, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean, the actors participating in development have suffered from accelerated economic changes in the traditional cooperation patterns. To survive, they have had to adopt more competitive attitudes which have not facilitated cooperation within the sector.
If the initial promises of the CMC continue and express themselves with greater firmness even with the NICTs, if the opportunities are greater, so too are the challenges and threats due to the growing and sometimes uncontrolled presence of market forces in the center of said technologies. On the other hand, in the same period the movement of social actors has been weakened at a global level as a consequence of geopolitical changes. Quantitative data on the social impact of these technologies, continues to be scarce and it becomes therefore urgent to think about mobilizing efforts strengthening the sector and allowing the creation of mechanisms for a true knowledge of the impact of said technology in society; especially in sectors of the civil society.
The problems of infrastructure for the NICTs have not disappeared and continue to be serious in regions far away from urban centers; nevertheless, they have lost their initial urgency of the beginning of the decade. With the accelerated evolution of technological media, with the clear risk of reduction of transforming elements of society, due to the imposing forces of the great actors of the market, the focus must be reoriented towards methods and mechanisms susceptible of causing cultivation and rebirth of pro-activeness and integration of social actors.
Mobilizing and enterpreneuring projects are required which may become catalysts of change and offer real cooperation opportunities to this key group for development. It is necessary to empower the numerous actors, helping them to establish frameworks of cooperation, to make them sensitive regarding the importance of measuring the impact of their actions and to make them stronger so that they may play their role within the process of redefinition taking place in our societies.
The actors that we wish to unite in order to work jointly do not need any financing for the purchasing of equipment or for Internet access at this point: they do need financial support in order to become capable of working jointly, to reflect collectively, and to experiment with applications and new methodologies that may open the innovative ways in the social use of information technologies for Latin American civil society. Initiating this joint road requires resources that are sometimes hard to find through international cooperation, since said international cooperation is more interested in equipment installation and the transfer of technology. The specific niches of the IDRC, in research for development, and of the FPH, in the reflection and the exchange of experiences for the dynamism of social movements, make possible the celebration of activities such as those proposed herein. This project, due to its information products, its applied methodologies, its pilot applications oriented towards the need of
social impacts of the NICTs, as well as due to its own exemplary value in terms of open cooperation, supposes to make contributions to aid the social sector of the NICTs in its need to fully play its role in Latin America and the Caribbean.
2. The Gopher was born in '91 and the Web in '93, when the Internet started to become global.
3. A skillful user that has become a communicator and global consumer of the Internet cannot be evaluated in the same manner as a user, with equal skills, that has learned to use the tool to promote his ideas through the production of information and create virtual communities to serve development.