Use of Information and Communications Technologies by Indigenous Civil Society Organizations in Ecuador
Indigenous peoples are among the most marginalized population groups in the Western Hemisphere. In Latin America, they have engaged in diverse forms of collective action with varying degrees of success. Previous research has studied the “traditional” social movement strategies used by some of the more successful groups. We know relatively little, however, about how Indigenous groups use information and communication technologies (ICTs) to pursue their goals and engage in civic participation. While a growing number of researchers are studying the use of ICTs for the purpose of mobilization, recent studies on the use of technology by social movements tend to focus on a handful of high-profile Western cases of large-scale mobilization. Transnational NGOs have worked with Indigenous organizations to transfer technology and help set up webpages, social media accounts and hardware but we still know little about how they are being used and in what direction these technologies affect the power relationship in this very distinct social and political context. This study fills some of the gaps in our knowledge by looking at how Ecuadorian Indigenous organizations are using ICTs, the barriers they face and the factors that enhance or diminish their capacity to use technology effectively. It finds that while there are benefits and disadvantages, the barriers these groups face with respect to ICTs may be tipping the balance of power away from Indigenous movements.