This essay adopts a Freedom-centred view of development with Political Freedom at its core. It questions the conditions that enable Civil Society in developing countries to use the internet to create (virtual) public spheres. It will begin by reviewing literature on Civil Society and on Habermas’ theorization of the public sphere. It will then analyse the impact of the internet in redefining the public sphere and its contribution to the emergence of the Zapatista effect. Two factors are consequently identified as facilitating a (virtual) public sphere: identity politics in a network environment and the socio-political conditions. Based on the experience of Civil Society in Tanzania, we will see that these factors cannot be ‘engineered’ as the complexities of the public sphere cannot be overlooked. Future research should focus on the specific contextual elements that create a public sphere in the specific circumstances of developing countries.
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