Mainstream nonprofits struggling to understand how and why they must investigate the technology for good on which they depend for its “values fit” would do well to turn to such groups for guidance. Aboriginal archivists who’ve built customized, affordable, controllable digital systems that align with their communities “access controls” and information management systems know how to align software, hardware, and purpose.
Political activists who live on the knife’s edge between mass organizing, community cohesion, and digital surveillance know how to pick, choose, use, and abandon off the shelf software to maximize their impact and mitigate the risks.
Journalists trying to hold both governments and corporations accountable, even as their own livelihoods are being undermined by their digital policies and practices, find ways to network expertise, protect sources, share insights, and get their work paid for (sort of). We heard from several of these groups at Digital Impact: Brisbane, and learned that (some) are finding (some) ways to pay for it, mixing volunteer time, donated space and software and community donations. But none of those are structural or sustainable.
Lucy Bernholz is a Senior Research Scholar at Stanford University and Director at Digital Civil Society Lab
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