Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation, John F. Kennedy School of Government
Since its origins in 1999 in the provincial Brazilian city of Tres Rios, RENCTAS, the Brazilian National Network to Fight the Trafficking of Wild Animals, has tapped the Internet to engage citizens throughout the country as a means to change public perception and government policy and practice regarding illegal animal trafficking in Brazil and around the world. Animal trafficking is the third largest illegal trade in the world after drugs and arms. However, the problem and its harmful economic and social impact on Brazil was completely unknown before RENCTAS began gathering citizen tips of trafficking online and using this information at the local, national, and international levels to spur enforcement activities and stimulate media coverage. RENCTAS is now headquartered in Brasilia and has built a national and international reputation and network of collaborators. The organization is currently exploring several options for how it can revamp its back-end capacity to keep up with the scope and scale of online interactions and demands for its knowledge and expertise. This paper is an outgrowth of the Ash Institute's Innovations in Technology and Governance (ITG) Project, which seeks to identify the conditions under which innovations in technology and governance can be most effectively and appropriately harnessed to drive improvements in the ways societies govern themselves. A central research question for the ITG Project is how networks that enable wider and more horizontal communication flows, and at more scales, challenge or alter traditional governance. The ITG Project also aims to better understand the causal relationships between polity, technology, and economy. The ITG Workshop took place on October 30 - 31, 2003 at Harvard University.