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Web 2.

0 and Social Media for Development

Research Abstract

The ‘Web 2.0 and Social Media for Development’, an independent reading and research is
conducted as a specialization course during the Diploma in Development Leadership
(2009) in Coady International Institute, St. Francis Xavier University, Canada. This
research is done by Suran Maharjan; currently he is working as an Executive Director at
Xplore International.



“Social media is best understood as a group of new kinds of online media, which has most
or all of the following characteristics: Participation, Openness, Conversation, Community
and Connectedness” (Mayfield, 2008, p.5). Social media also could be considered as
easier, faster and cheaper online media where users can easily participate and contribute.
Web 2.0, which is a free or a low-cost interactive web-based service, helps people to
share information and collaborate online more easily than with earlier tools. Web 2.0 may
provide the tools for all of us to communicate, empower, collaborate and create useful
networks (IMARK, 2009), and could be a new tool of social change.

Web 2.0 applications and social media could be used for many purposes of development.
These kinds of applications are now used by non profits for various purposes such as
sharing best practices; creating interest-based social networks; collaborative writing;
online learning; sharing content including audio, video, publication and images, etc. In
this globalized and interdependent world, internet and internet-based technologies
have become part of people’s lives especially in developed countries; whereas in a
developing country like Nepal, they are perceived as a new challenge rather than a
new opportunity.

This independent reading and research intends to explore the available data and literature
about Web 2.0 and social media for development, their conceptual underpinnings, and
practices among development sector in several countries. The study also explores the
possibilities of using these technologies for development interventions globally in general,
and specifically to Nepal. Since the research area is relatively new, this independent
reading and research is also expected to contribute to further debate and discussion on
the issue.


It seems the term ‘Web 2.0’ suggests a new version of the World Wide Web (WWW). In
fact it is misleading. Web 2.0 does not refer to an update to any technical specifications,
but to changes in the ways software developers and end-users utilize the Web. Web 2.0
refers to web development and design that facilitates interactivity, communication,
information sharing, cooperation and collaboration on the internet. It includes web-based
communities, hosted services, applications and platforms that support them, for example,
social networking websites; audio, video, document (publication), presentation and photo-
sharing websites; social bookmarking websites; RSS; wikis; blogs; and some VOIP services
(IIED and CTA, 2009). “Web 2.0 applications based on the internet are also referred as
‘participatory’, ‘social’ or ‘read-write’ web” (IIED and CTA, 2009, p.8).

The mass media tools or channels commonly used for communication to support
development, create awareness, and conduct advocacy are TV and Radio programs; public
notices, information and news through newspapers, etc. The new boom in channels called
“social media” could be the new age channel and means of content delivery such as
pictures, sounds, videos, or text, but in different way. Social media may not follow the
traditional way of information sharing on TV, radio and in newspapers that talk at you as
an audience, but not with you. In fact, in social media everyone can participate,
contribute content and be an active receiver of information and a sender. Everyone is an
equal player with equal ability to share his or her perspective and be part of the

The use of Web 2.0 and social media for development purposes could be considered as
Web 2.0 and social media for development. It enables development actors to relate to and
connect with other stakeholders, produce and publish their own materials, decide on
levels of access to information and redistribute pieces of content released by others. It is
also about integrating, combining, aggregating, generating, moderating and mediating
development information, ideas and perspectives.


Nepal is a developing country and has many challenges in pathway of development. This
research deal with the possibility of using new media to overcome some of the
development challenges such as poverty, isolation, voicelessness, etc. Web 2.0 and social
media could be new tools for development and could also help to increase people’s quality
of life.


The innovation on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) is rife.

People with access to the internet and hold knowledge & skills have already started
getting huge benefits and are involved in Web 2.0 and social media both as a producer and

Universal McCann (UM), the world's largest media service firm; runs ongoing investigation
into the rise and rise of social media.

• According to Wave.4 (UM), the total estimated global active internet audience is
now 625 million. Here active internet users mean those who use the internet every
day or every other day - showing impressive growth for all types of social media.

• When it comes to numbers, America is a dominant player in the social media space.
Out of the estimated active internet users globally (625 million), the USA alone has
57.8 million active internet users, Canada has 9.4 million, UK has 12 .1 million,
Germany has 11.5 million and France has 10.2 million.

The development sector in Nepal, it could be said that people are less benefited or even
isolated from the current trend of internet use. The data shows there are approximately
397,500 people using the internet in Nepal in 2009, the data is only about internet users;
active internet users and exposure to social media still needs to be considered.

Conventionally, it is understood that basic knowledge about computers, email, and the
internet are enough for day-to-day life, yet the way of using internet technologies has
been changing frequently. The new boom in internet ‘Web 2.0 and social media’ has
already taken place. It could be the tool for connecting people between developed and
developing countries, rural and urban areas.

Web 2.0 and social media is all about conversation, voice, participation, therefore if
people get involved they could easily raise their voice, could participate and be part of
the conversation. Otherwise people might suffer from a new kind of poverty called
‘information poverty’, i.e. relative poverty in terms of accessing the information through
Web 2.0 & social media and other ICT tools.

There are several reasons that people now need to be part of Web 2.0 and social media
such as social networking sites which are officially more popular than most sites, rather
than being a fad Web 2.0 is a fundamental shift in the way we communicate. The old
communication model was a monologue whereas social media is a dialogue. Dialogue in
social media could be more transparent, inclusive, authentic, vibrant and consumer driven
(Web 2.0 and Social Media, 2008). Besides, it is also easier to get a wider audience using
this channel as viewers could also pass the information on to their friends easily. There is
a window of opportunity for the audience to comment on the information and allows the
audience to have a dialogue using social media. Even User Generated Content, Social
Media, and Advertising – An Overview (April 2008) by the Interactive Advertising Bureau
(IAB) said, “In 2008, if you’re not on a social networking site, you’re not on the


2.2.1 Internet and internet users

• The data shows that Nepal ranks 103rd in the list of countries by the number of
internet users in the world. Approximately 397,500 people have used the internet
in Nepal in 2009 (Wikipedia, 2009). This number is just 1.4% of the approximately
30 million population of the country.

• According to ICT Statistics Newslog - Nepal in April 2009, there were total of
76,502 internet subscribers, including 13,893 ADSL broadband internet users.

Most of the Web 2.0 and social media websites are compatible with high speed broadband
internet and good computer configuration. The internet which is also the backbone of Web
2.0 and social media itself is a challenge to Nepal. First, only a few people have access to
the internet; second, only a few people are using high speed internet, third high speed
internet like broadband ADSL is expensive; fourth, high speed internet is mostly available
in urban areas; and finally a computer with good configuration is expensive.

2.2.2. Policy and regularity provisions

• At present, the priority of the whole nation is on constitution making and the
peace process, not on laws and legislation on ICTs. All in all Web 2.0 and social
media is just a specific and advanced part of ICT.

• Yet the existing laws are not able to address Web 2.0 and social media. As the e-
Government Master Plan 2006 Consulting Report said, “Electronic Transaction Act
is an act solely for e- commerce, therefore additional laws for ICT development are
needed; the foundation for ICT development through enactment of the ICT
promotion fund, ICT promotion law, e-government law, etc. is needed.”
• The nation does not have any control over most of the popular web 2.0 and social
media platforms such as the social networking sites Facebook, video sharing site
YouTube, blog service provider Blogger & Wordpress and the like.
2.2.3 Language

• The dominance of the English language in Web 2.0 and social media could be
considered as another challenge in this domain. Indeed dominance of English is also
found on computers and the internet.

• Nepali is the national language of Nepal. But most of the leading Web 2.0 and
social media sites around the world are in English or other non Nepali languages.

2.2.4 Priority areas of development

• The present plan focuses on physical infrastructure development, social

integration. The ICT sector has been given less priority compared to other sectors.
And issues about Web 2.0 and social media are not seen in mainstream
development because of other dominant priorities.
• Association of International NGOs (AIN) Nepal Membership Report 2008 shows the
priority areas of INGOs working in Nepal are human rights & social justice; social
inclusion; reconciliation, (re)integration, rehabilitation, reconstruction &
development; civil society governance; legal framework and INGO’s image building.
According to the AIN Membership Report 2008, only 10 out of 80 organizations work
in communications and media issues. Of these, 10 organizations work only with
traditional mass media channels such as radio, TV, etc.

Literally there is not even a single AIN member which has a program in ‘ICT’ and
‘Web 2.0 & social media for development’. Only Panos South Asia, a regional INGO

in South Asia (member of AIN) is running a program on Media Pluralism, which is
related to social media.

2.2.5 Power cut schedule

• The power cut schedule (load shedding) in Nepal in present and near future is also
a big challenge in Web 2.0 and social media sector as this sector is dependent on


• The external environment such as the different initiatives taken by government

and the private sector, internet access expansion, raising awareness, interest of
the new generation (youth), increase in Web 2.0 and social media users, etc; could
also be considered as prospects in this domain.

• Nepal Telecom, the biggest telecommunication company in Nepal, has plans to

reach 50000 subscribers with its ADSL broadband internet by the end of the Three
Year Interim Plan (2010) or 11th national plan. “NT has plans to expand the ADSL
network through-out the country within the next three years. The services shall be
provided by use of existing copper cable network infrastructure. Initially only high
speed Internet Service shall be available and gradually services such as VPN,
multicasting, video conferencing, video-on-demand and broadcast application etc.
shall also be added in future”(NTC, 2009). Besides, other ISPs have also planned to
launch ADSL broadband internet in the near future.

• The active presence of the High Level Commission For Information Technology
(HLCIT) under the Nepal Government could be considered as another prospect in
this domain. The intervention of HLCIT could immensely help in the areas of Web
2.0 and social media for development. For example Nepal's first Rural Information
Gateway Portal

• Other initiatives from different non profit organizations such as the Rural Internet
Connectivity program, computer literacy programs, telecenters and rural
information centers could also be considered as prospects in the area of Web 2.0
and social media for development. One example is a program called Mero Sanu
Saathi by One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), INGO, which aims to provide an
inexpensive, durable, and highly power-efficient laptop as a learning tool, for each
and every child of Nepal.



3.1.1 Nature of Web 2.0 and social media

“Social media is people using tools and sites to share content and have conversations
online” (Primal Media, 2009). Web 2.0 & social media are all about conversation powered
by internet technology. It is a conversation between people which is not organized, and
not controlled. Indeed conversation in social media is vibrant, emergent, fun, compelling
and full of insight.

Conversation and interaction are important aspects of development. They could be

considered as the seed of development because conversation is a catalyst for
development. The conversation in Web 2.0 and social media is also ‘participatory’ ‘social’
or read-write’. Isolation and reaching the voiceless are considered as big challenges in
development. But in social media, everybody has a voice regardless of physical barriers. It
leads to feelings of connectedness among people. The nature of Web 2.0 and social media
promotes the participation of people which is highly emphasized in the overall
development process.

Mayfield, A., (2009), from iCrossing defined the characteristics of social media as
participation, openness, conversation, community and connectedness. Dr. Jim Hamill and
Alan Stevenson (2009), Department of Marketing, University of Strathclyde, UK, share
some of Mayfield’s characteristics on social media in their presentation entitled ‘Web
2.0/Social Media, The times they are changing’, such as openness, sharing, network and
communities. Besides, they also gave few other characteristics to social media like,
interactivity, global, social element, the internet as the platform, for empowerment, Mass
Collaboration, etc.

While I agree with all the characteristics of social media, I would also add a few others
such, promote access to information & resources, encouragement to subscribe internet,
pathway to information literacy, etc.

The Understanding Information Literacy: Primer by UNESCO (2007) illustrated that “In the
digital age, what information literacy means is that understanding technologies is not
enough. What everyone must also do is learn how to utilize those incredibly diverse
and powerful technologies efficiently and effectively to search for, retrieve, organize,
analyze, evaluate information and then use it for specific decision-making and
problem-solving ends.” Web 2.0 and social media could be one of the pathways to

information literacy as it helps people to use information for specific decision-making and
problem solving in day-to-day life.

Development stakeholders can take advantage of Web 2.0 tools and applications to build
networks, collaborate and exchange knowledge. “Social media allow organizations and
communities to maintain small group communications even when they are geographically
distributed. They can also give potential on access to a massive, international audience”
(IMARK, 2009, p.3).

Another important fact about Web 2.0 and social media is the transformation of people;
that is social media transforms people from content consumers into content producers.
Everyone can raise awareness of a cause, raise funds and friends, engage with new
constituents in social media in an interactive, democratic and participatory way (Case
Foundation, 2009).

The characteristics or nature of Web 2.0 tools and social media show that it could helpful
to speed up the development process. It promotes involvement, information sharing,
ownership and responsibility, etc which are also principles of community development
(Napoleon, 1992). It also helps to strengthen participation and democracy as it is people
centered media.

3.1.2 New trends in the development sector

Web 2.0 & social media can also be seen as a new approach to executing development
initiatives. It could be used as the a tool for discussion, information generation, processing
and dissemination, brand awareness, advocacy, public relation, fund raising, online
training, etc.

• Although not in Nepal, the presence of well-known donors and stakeholders in Web
2.0 & social media could be considered as one of the new trend in development.
For example, UNDP; UNICEF; WWF; Oxfam; American Red Cross; Bill and Melinda
Gates Foundation; DFID; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria;
Amnesty International; Save The Children; VSO; Global Giving; American Cancer
Society; Greenpeace International; Mercy Corps; etc, all have an online presence
or profiles in one or more social media platforms such as Facebook, Myspace,
Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.

• Donor agencies and big stakeholders in the development sector started using a
social media platform to keep up with people, and have direct conversations with a
wide and global audience.
• Designated program for nonprofits in social media sites

• Presence of cause based social networking sites with non profits profile for

• Another important new trend in the development sector is online fundraising and
donations using Web 2.0 and social media platforms.

• The practices of online education or online training or distance education in the

development sector have also appeared as a new trend in using Web 2.0 and social
media for development. Development organizations are running online trainings on
various issues such as human rights, language classes, youth issues, project
management, HIV and AIDS, Web 2.0 and social media tools, etc.


The followings are some possible ways that the development sector or non-profits could
benefit from Web 2.0 and social media.

3.2.1 Social Networks

3.2.2 Online Communities

3.2.3 Blogging

3.2.4 Micro-blogging or nanoblogging

3.2.5 Promoting Events via social media

3.2.6 Content sharing worldwide


There are some issues we need to address while using Web 2.0 and social media for

“People: we need to look at the people we use the tools with and for, considering their
needs. Are the tools appropriate?

Access: it is important to remember issues of access, connectivity and language. Who does
and does not have access to the tools? Who can or cannot read or listen to the information
you want to share using these tools?

Participation: we need to support participation and consider motivations. How do we

facilitate participation? Who can or cannot participate, and why?

Content: it is important to consider issues of content (style, media and type). What
information is being shared? With whom? For what purposes?

Impact: lastly – and most importantly – none of this is worthwhile without measuring
impact. Are these tools contributing to a positive change of progress and innovation? How
do we measure impact?” (Addison, 2009, p.22)

I agree with all five key issues discussed by Addison. These are some important issues
which need to be addressed in dealing with Web 2.0 and social media for development.
There are a few other issues that need to be addressed such as differences between the
global south and north, knowledge and skills on the use of the internet, frequent changes
in Web 2.0 and social media services, etc.

“In North America you can assume that if you put information online someone can
access it. But in the developing world we cannot make this assumption” (Zuckerman,
2009, p.88). In developing countries access to internet and high speed internet could be
considered a bigger challenge. Therefore assuming everything available on the internet
can be accessed by all, including developing countries is misleading. There are also a big
number of people, who still think and use the internet only for an email. Meantime there
are many people who do not know the uses as well as similarities and differences between
the different versions of two most well known internet browser softwares Internet
Explorer and Mozila Firefox, which is important to know especially in Web 2.0 and social
media era because some of the Web 2.0 and social media sites are best compatible with
the particular modern internet browser and in a computer with high configuration. It is
also true that technology has been changing day by day, more advanced Web 2.0 and
social media is introduced frequently. Therefore, updates on those technologies are highly
important to follow recent changes. Following rife changes in technologies, managing and
organizing multiple Web 2.0 and social media channels, moving to one channel to next
channel, etc, are not easy to all, time taking and even next to impossible in some degree.

Internet phishing (fraud), scams, hoaxs, possible violations of copy right, pornography,
etc, are some other problems found in this new domain. There is also a big concern about

ownership of data. Who owns the data of a Web 2.0 and social media site? Is it the site
owner or users? What do site owners do with the data? The permanency of Web 2.0 and
social media site is another concern. How can users guarantee the availability of Web 2.0
and social media site service for a long time? What if the site is shut down forever, or even
for a short time? There is a data insecurity problem.

Most of the Web 2.0 and social media site owners made users agree on their terms of
agreement to use their service; it is just by one click of ok or by giving a tick mark to the
terms and conditions. People rarely read all those terms and conditions as it is
impractical; most of the time, they are long and time consuming to read, and does not
make any sense whether they are short or long. It is mandatory to have agreed to use the
service, so users generally do not bother to read the agreement. As a result in Web 2.0
and social media sites users do not know what their rights are and what they are not? In
the virtual community within Web 2.0 and social media environment, there is always a
lack of trust. People might have a tendency to make fake. How can people ensure
everything others say and write is true? There is also a language concern. Most of the
terminologies used in Web 2.0 and social media sites are given by site developer
companies or individuals. The terminologies have been changing frequently. Firstly, it is
very hard to follow all the new terminologies which are not user’s language. Secondly,
these terminologies do not take into consideration for present languages and indigenous

The lack of new media literacy is one of the major difficulties in this new boom. All
people are not new media literate; there are difficulties in adapting to and managing all
those new technologies. There is also a dominance of online advertisements in Web 2.0
and social media sites. People are already fed up with online advertisements appearing in
their social media sites. The shift from previous generation websites to Web 2.0 and social
media has already taken off; on the other hand there are also people who are still not
introduced to these modern technologies. These technologies could be the tool for
minimizing the gap between the global South and North, poor and rich, yet they are
leading to an even greater digital divide.



Web 2.0 and social media have been perceived as a new way of communication. The Web
2.0 tools have huge potential and could be used for any purpose such as business,
education, entertainment, communication, development, etc. Web 2.0 and social media
itself is not a development issue such as Gender, Poverty, HIV and AIDS, Young people,
etc. Indeed it is the tools that could speed up any development process; it is not a
separate discipline but cross-cutting to all other development issues.

It is a fact that internet penetration, uses of Web 2.0 and social media are increasing day
by day. People who have access to the internet and are able to be a part of conversation
have been benefitting from it, as Web 2.0 and social media tool share a new opportunity
for them. Meantime, it is perceived as a new challenge to people from developing
countries such as Nepal where several challenges still need to be overcome since only a
small portion of total population have access to the internet and high speed internet; they
lack knowledge and skills in using the technology and its potentials, etc.

The Web 2.0 and social media are not seen as a priority in development interventions.
There is not enough policy or regulations in Nepal; the priority of the whole nation is on
constitution building. Meantime there are a few initiatives taken by government, I/NGOs
which could be considered as showing potential in this new era such as the active role of
the HLCIT, introduction of ADSL broadband internet and expansion of ADSL services in
different districts by NTC, etc.

There are several characteristics of Web 2.0 and social media match with the
characteristics of development. Some new trends in development such as online training,
online donations, existence of well known donors in social media channels, etc, are also
contributing to the use of Web 2.0 and social media for development. There are several
ways that development organizations, non profits could use Web 2.0 and social media for
their development interventions. However some difficulties have also appeared such as
the need for frequent updates, requirement of modern software and machines, need for
high speed internet, etc, which must be overcome.


Based on my learning and experiences during this independent study and research, I would
like to make some recommendations for consideration. The recommendations are solely to
promote further discussion and to take action on the use of Web 2.0 and social media for
development, and for all who are directly and indirectly involved with the overall
development of Nepal such as government, I/NGOs, CSOs, education institutions, private
sector, etc.
• Access to the internet, which is the backbone to Web 2.0 and social media, has a
crucial role in people’s lives by connecting them with friends, information and
resources. Therefore high speed internet service expansion, not only in urban areas
but also in semi urban and rural areas, is required. Since NTC has planned to reach
more customers with its broadband internet to all of Nepal, government should
make a favourable environment. Meantime there should be a favourable
environment for other ISPs to introduce ADSL broadband internet, so that more
people will have access to broadband internet.

• The government does not seem to have enough rules, regulations and policy to
address the use of Web 2.0 and social media, therefore it is necessary to make
favourable policy, rules and regulation on internet mediated channels. Some
initiatives taken by government bodies such as HLCIT should be continued and
expanded to a wider area.

• ICT, Web 2.0 and social media are given less priority by most development
stakeholders. It’s time to start debate and take action to get benefits from these
new technologies and also explore how to overcome potential harm.

• Web 2.0 and social media can be integrated with other development agendas and
internet expansion programs.

• Development sector and non profits could also develop their social media strategy
to use Web 2.0 and social media channels more effectively and efficiently, and also
to promptly deliver their messages to a wider audience.

• Education institutions such as universities, colleges, training institutions, etc could

run educational courses on Web 2.0 and social media channels both for knowledge
and skills to promote its uses and also to follow the current trend of using the
internet in the world. Education institutions could be the means to develop
capable human resources for Web 2.0 and social media.

• In-depth action research on ‘Web 2.0 and social media for Development’ should be
conducted in Nepal to find out its possibilities and challenges in detail and also to
find out possible ways to overcome challenges.

• Guidelines or a manual on social media could be developed for development

organizations, so that development organizations and non-profits could use these
new media in their development interventions more effectively and efficiently.

Conferences, trainings, campaigns and other awareness raising programs could also
be conducted using these tools.


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Learning and Action, IIED and CTA (edition 59), p. 21-26

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