conflict & communication online, Vol. 1, No. 2, 2002
ISSN 1618-0747




Michael Reimann (Zürich)
The internet as a medium of democratization and mutual understanding - The case of Bosnia-Herzegowina

"Politics and the Internet" is booming, both with regard to practical efforts and trials on the one hand and scientific research on the other. The article examines ways in which information and communication technologies (ICT) in general, and the "World Wide Web" in particular, can be used as a medium for peace-building, democratization and reconciliation between (formerly) hostile parties. It focuses on the case of war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina. Several criteria, derived from peace and conflict research and from information science are developed, and ways of operationalizing them are proposed.
Those criteria describe the appropriate use of the Internet, and they allow to evaluate websites of organizations and institutions in the field of democratization and conflict resolution. The criteria are

  • Universal Access: Availability, affordability, quality assurance and media skills, as well as navigation tools and information in at least one of the country's languages;
  • Information: Self-portrayal of organizations (program, statute, organization chart, and other facts), office information (addresses, dates, policies, etc.), news;
  • Communication: e-mail addresses, search and navigational tools, transactions;
  • Participation: Threaded discussions (with the institution as a discussion partner);
  • Various perspectives: Multilingual or multicultural content, presentation platform for websites, uncensored messages or hyperlinks of various (adverse) parties;
  • Group interaction: Threaded discussions or chats with members of adverse parties, provision of e-mail-addresses for direct interaction among individuals and groups;
  • Orientation towards conflict resolution: Acceptance of the presence of a conflict, topical training or educational programs, or orientation towards groups engaged in a conflict.

The empirical part of the paper presents data on telecommunication infrastructure and the use of the Internet in Bosnia and Herzegovina with a focus on the demand for "universal access". Following that, the developed criteria are applied to ICT projects and Internet homepages of national and international institutions and organizations engaged in democratization and reconciliation efforts. The homepage of the UN "Office of the High Representative" is mentioned as an example for "bad practice". This website is almost exclusively in English and therefore inaccessible to most Bosnian citizens. Examples for "good practice" are the websites of the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Bosnian "Mine Action Centers", and the "OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina". Finally, the "D@dalos" project meets all criteria: it is particularly oriented towards conflict resolution and can be considered a real "democratization project", fully employing the Internet's potential to foster democracy and reconciliation.


  full text in German  
On the author: Michael Reimann, born 1966. Diploma in Psychology (University of Oldenburg, Germany, 1995); Diploma in Information Science (University of Konstanz, 2001). 1995-1997 Research Assistant at the Peace Research Group at the University of Konstanz; since 2001 Learning Software Designer at the International Relations and Security Network (ETH Zurich, Switzerland); author of several articles on the coverage of the Gulf War and the Bosnia conflict.

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