The limits of Web–based empowerment: Integrated water resource management case studies

Mike Thelwall, Adrian Barlow, Katie Vann


This article is an analysis of the limits of Web–based empowerment of the voiceless, leveraging from five Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) case studies, and motivated by several recent Web–based empowerment success stories. For IWRM, the Web picture is of an emerging academic–trained professional community of water professionals, with close ties to national governments, but closer ties to powerful international NGOs and NGOs sponsored by western governments. Nevertheless, no Web evidence was found for the involvement of ordinary citizens in IWRM, despite this being a key theoretical goal, and no Web evidence was found of the emergence of genuine grass–roots pressure groups. A comparison with other high–profile Web–enabled issues, such as the anti–World Trade Organisation protests, indicates that the Internet can be used to help give a voice to the voiceless in many different ways, but that its use at a grassroots level is not automatic.

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