Internet Use:
NGOs in Action

Hari Srinivas
CaseStudy Series E-103. March 2015.

The dynamic nature of the use of the internet by NGOs clearly illustrates the flexibility and adaptability of both NGOs and the internet itself. They have networked online for a variety of reasons: to build awareness, to facilitate training programmes, to reduce costs, to raise funds, to manage information, to disseminate information, to communicate with personnel, or to avoid travel costs!

a. Query Processing b. Sharing of ideas c. Subject-specific databases
Mailing lists, newsgroups, electronic bulletin boards etc. have helped people communicate, where widely scattered information has become more accessible by posting questions to internet/email users. A number of mailing lists on various topics have been in existence, which can be subscribed to, and used to post messages to all users of that list. Governments, NGOs, Academic institutions, consultants, national and international organizations etc. have set up "homepages" on the world wide web, with information on their organization and operations enabling its sharing and wider dissemination, and matching of needs and resources. Web-based databases on a wide variety of topics have been developed. Such databases generally carry bibliographies, case studies, best practices and ideas, documents and write-ups, tools and strategies, mailing lists/newsgroups, links to other sites, email and addresses of useful/relevant organizations.

Concrete actions that NGOs use in developing web-based information have entailed three broad approaches: publicizing, interacting, and supporting:

  • By publicizing: awards programmes, press campaigns, placards, posters, notice boards, media exercises (photographs, video, films, articles), non-formal activities: street dramas, newsletters, bulletins, documentation of case studies etc.
  • By interacting: formal and informal community group meetings, forums/workshops, site visits, interviews, etc.
  • By supporting: minigrants, internships, workshops, training in leadership and other organizational/operational skills, surveys and other means of information gathering etc.

In general, NGO have used the internet for information collation, for networking, for collaboration and partnerships, for participation and exchange, for communications and more. They have used various kinds of technologies to achieve this.

a. Information Collation: NGOs have extensively used the internet for collation of information on the activities that they and other NGOs carry out. They have both put up information for others to use, as well as accessed information that was made available on the internet. Some examples:

The NGO Cafe
The NGO Cafe is a meeting place for and by NGOs to discuss, debate and disseminate information on their work, strategies and results. It contains information useful to both NGOs and those studying NGOs.

Biodiversity Conservation Information System (BCIS)
A joint initiative of eleven programmes and partners, BCIS seeks to support environmentally sound decision-making and actions affecting the status of biodiversity and landscapes at the local, national, regional and global levels through cooperative provision of data, information, advice and related services.

The Hunger Web
The aim of Hunger Web is to facilitate the free exchange of ideas and information regarding the causes of, and solutions to, hunger. It contains primary information, made available by the World Hunger Program and its partners, as well as links to other sites where information of relevance to hunger can be found.

b. Networking: It is in networking that NGOs have made most effective use of the internet for the access, sharing and dissemination of information. NGOs have used the internet for advocacy, awareness building, consultancy, education and sensitization, identifying resources, impact analysis, knowledge creation, mutual support, news & events info, programme/project support, research, training courses etc. Some examples:

NGO Global Network
The purpose of this site is to provide information for NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) who are active at the United Nations. The Network seeks to develop partnerships with other NGOs around the Globe and initiate a dialogue and links to those NGOs with similar interests.

Climate Action Network (CAN)
The Climate Action Network (CAN) is a network of NGOs who share a common concern for problems of climate change and wish to cooperate in the development and implementation of both short term and long term strategies to combat it.

GEF NGO Information Kiosk
The Global Environment Facility provides grants and concessional funding to recipient countries for projects and programs that protect the global environment and promote sustainable economic growth. The NGO Information Kiosk was set up to enable interaction between GEF and NGOs.

c. Collaboration and Partnerships: The internet has provided the ideal platform for intensive collaboration and partnerships between NGOs themselves, and with other organizations. These collaborations have typically been with respect to information, programmes and projects, monitoring and evaluation, research, policy development etc. Some examples:

OneWorld Online is a partnership of over 100 organizations working for human rights and sustainable development. Its aim is to publish information about global issues at low cost for development NGOs and others whose remit it is to get such material out to the world. Separate, autonomous websites are created for each of its development partners

Asia-Pacific Cities Forum
- Website moved / unknown -
APCF is an action partnership for sustainable cities and communities linking leaders of business, government, civil society, academe, and media. The Mission of APCF is to act as a catalyst for a continuing and constructive interaction in Asia and the Pacific region whereby partners are able to leverage their respective resources to a degree not achievable individually.

d. Participation and exchange: Due to the large number of NGOs and public users who have access to the internet, it has been an ideal medium for the exchange and dissemination of information - at the right level to the right people. Some examples:

Envirolink Network
EnviroLink is a non-profit organization, a grassroots online community that unites organizations and volunteers around the world with people in over 130 countries. It provides information services such as a library, news service, the Sustainable Business Network etc.

The International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI)
ICLEI is the international environmental agency for local governments. It serves as an international clearinghosue on sustainable development issues, initiates joint projects among local governments, organizes training programmes and serves as an advocate for local governments in international fora.

e. Communications: It is only with constructive communications and dissemination of their activities and services that an NGO is able to deliver its message to its constituency. It has done so very effectively using the internet. Some examples:

Association for Progressive Communications
The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is a global network of networks whose mission is to empower and support organizations, social movements and individuals through the use of information and communication technologies. Composed of a consortium of 25 international member networks, APC offers vital links of communication to over 50,000 organizations and individuals in 133 countries.

f. Technology: NGOs have used various means and technologies that the internet offers in its online activities. Mailing lists and newsgroups (including online bulletin boards) are on example of the one-to-many and many-to-many communication technologies that the internet offers. Web-based databases have been created, maintained, and updated dynamically by accessing them over the internet. Public membership in NGOs have been solicited over the internet; similarly online question-and-answer forums have also been activated. Downloading and uploading of files and databases over the internet have also been enabled by internet links.

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