Network Cooperation Development Cooperation in the Network Society

Network Cooperation Development Cooperation in the Network Society

Manuel Acevedo (International Development Cooperation, Argentina)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-497-4.ch001
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Trends in international development cooperation point to the increasing networking of initiatives and programmes, facilitated by information and communications technology (ICT). This allows many more people and organizations from around the world to contribute to a given project, as with the case of online volunteers. There are various types of networks active in development cooperation, but network management needs to be incorporated by involved organizations in order to extract the expected benefits from their involvement. Network analysis practices will help determine if they are set up and managed appropriately. [Article copies are available for purchase from]
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Human Development in the Network Society

This article is rooted on two central paradigms, ‘Human Development’ and ‘Network Society’, and its aim is to explore one of its bridging drivers, namely the international development cooperation system (and its actors), that can contribute to how Human Development can be best advanced in the context of Network Society.

First the objective, which is Human Development. The concept was developed during the 80’s by the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen (1999), and spread beyond academia as it becomes embraced by UNDP in the 90’s, when it starts issuing Human Development Reports under the guidance of Mahbub ul Haq. Human Development is about expanding choices for people, so they can live a dignified life. A seemingly simple, yet highly powerful notion. Behind choices are freedoms, made possible by capacities and empowerment and capacities. Very importantly, Human Development provides the basis for a paradigm shift in development goals, moving from needs to opportunities. This last point has important implications in terms of information and communications technology (ICT) for Development, such as proactively seeking to open up opportunities and doing so by promoting local talent and capacities—in addition to directly helping to satisfy needs.

Secondly the context, namely the Network Society. The concept was developed by Manuel Castells, which he described as the social structure of the Information Age (1998a, 1998b). It is related to the more popular notions of ‘Information Society’ or ‘Knowledge Societies’ (Mansell & When, 1997), but more rigorously constructed and goes beyond the raw materials (information/knowledge) to infer the structural fabric of this stage in society. The Network Society paradigm characterizes new models of production, communication, organization and identity, all organized around and through networks. And while it is possible to speak of specific ‘network societies’, the combination of both economic/financial globalization and a widespread communications infrastructure provide meaning to the notion of a global Network Society.

In the Network Society, development may be viewed from the perspective of a higher-level connectedness, i.e. moving between inclusion/exclusion poles. Perhaps one of the most troubling consequences of the Network Society context is that exclusion from it amounts to a kind of absolute exclusion. Castells refers to a ‘Fourth World’ as an isolated and almost invisible realm outside the networks, not delimited necessarily by national boundaries, where people, institutions and entire social groups are connected and unconnected to the Network Society without their control. (1998b, p.335). It is the grand ‘socio-economic-everything’ exclusion, and while appearing in all countries1 it certainly affects many more people in the under-developed South.

Therefore we should be asking about the types of elements and factors that favor the expansion of choices/freedoms (and thus inclusion) in a highly networked social context2. At this time, ICT is undoubtedly one of those elements to explore.

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