A social capital framework to assess ICTs mediated empowerment of environmental community organizations in Western Australia

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Dhakal, SP 2009, 'A social capital framework to assess ICTs mediated empowerment of environmental community organizations in Western Australia', in L Stillman, G Johanson & T Denison (eds), Proceedings of the CIRN Conference 2009: Enpowering communities: learning from community informatics practice, Prato, Italy, 4-6 November, Centre for Community Networking Research, Caulfield School of IT, Monash University, Melbourne, Vic.

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Peer Reviewed



The potential of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in empowering generally under-resourced community organizations has increasingly been acknowledged in recent years. While organizational empowerment refers to the capability to fulfil its mission by overcoming resource-scarcities, measuring the contribution of ICTs towards organizational empowerment remains an exigent task. Two different theories, ‘resource dependence’ and ‘social networks’ provide a framework to examine how harnessing social capital leads to organizational empowerment. It is in this context that this work-in-progress paper will explore the implications of ICTs adoption on organizational social capital as a proxy indicator of ICTs mediated empowerment. Based on survey responses from 81 Environmental Community Organizations (ECOs) in Western Australia, the findings indicate: (a) the capability to maintain social capital is strongly correlated with the capability to acquire human and financial capital; (b) the trend of access to ICTs (more than one-tenth ECOs not having an access to the Internet) as well as ICTs adoption (less than one-third and one-tenth ECOs hosting websites and posting blogs respectively) is generally weak; and (c) ICTs tend to benefit ECOs already with higher social capital. Apart from illustrating the usefulness of a social capital framework to gauge ICTs mediated empowerment, the findings also exposed the extent of organizational divide amongst ECOs. This paper therefore acknowledges that access to and adoption of ICTs without the necessary skills and support mechanisms will impede empowerment and suggests ways to make ICTs mediated empowerment genuine.