The Internet (Net) is the new space of empowerment and it is adding to, and transforming, the diverse contexts for economic, political, cultural and social transactions. In many ways it is the first truly potential global space because access to it is absolutely possible for all, although only a concrete reality for the few right now. Those few are concentrated in the North where the communications infrastructure and technological hardware and software are widely available and accessible. With 19 per cent of the world's population, the rich Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries had 91 per cent of Internet users as we moved into the new millennium (UNDP 1999). However, the Internet is reaching and being reached by an increasing number of people across the world every day, including those in the South, and the networking and activist work undertaken through it is forging new communities and collective strategies (Escobar 1999). These developments increasingly cross North/South boundaries. The Internet is facilitating an international grassroots communications revolution where more and more individuals and groups, including women and women's groups, are communicating, campaigning and community building through websites, e-mail networks and discussion groups.
One does not have to be a cyberfanatic or a naïve futurist to recognize that, while such activities do not automatically and immediately overturn the state-and corporate-based power that holds sway at the global level, they are contributing to changes in its operation. We should therefore consider the Internet as a potential means for democratization of the international arena through its facilitation of a growing number of voices and collective strategies. The possibilities for long-term change are well worth recognizing. The impact of cyberactivism and its part in mobilizing real-time protests, and the derailing of the WTO meeting in Seattle toward the end of 1999, was one of the first high-profile events demonstrating the concrete effects of international virtual political activity (see Protest.Net, http://www.protest.net, and ZNet, http://www.lbbs.org/Activism/actst.htm).
This event signalled the degree to which the Net is aiding 'active' participation in international processes by a growing number of individuals and groups.