The importance of the ICTs for the Third Sector


By José Avando Souza Sales[1] and Gleiciane Rosa da Silva[2]


The term third sector started to be used in the 70s in the United States to designate a sector of non-profit organizations. In the 1980s, the American literature practically abandoned the expression and replaced it with nonprofit sector. But in the late 80s and early 90s several changes were made, even internationally, bringing back the non-profits organizations theme (TIC ORGANIZAÇÕES SEM FINS LUCRATIVOS, 2012).

In Brazil, the researches on the third sector had a strong start in 1990 under the strong influence of Johns Hopkins University's work. This sector consists of organizations which demonstrate a few characteristics, such as formalization, private nature, non-distribution of profits, self-management, voluntary participation(SALAMON, ANHEIER, 1992, p. 148, apud TIC ORGANIZAÇÕES SEM FINS LUCRATIVOS, 2012, p. 53).

Many researches under the technology theme were also carried out along the way and due to the growing importance of new technologies, the social impacts of information and communication technologies (ICT) in individuals and organizations have become subject of research in several areas, even in organizations of the third sector. Specifically in Brazil, since the 1980s, there was an increase on the civil society participation in the political life, which coincided with the huge dispersal of technologies.

According to the reasearch ICT Nonprofit organizations (2012), the fact of having a networked society generates positive implications for both economic and social points of view. Although, the access and use of ICTs does not happen in an equal manner among the countries. Data from the research ICT Households and Enterprises (2013) shows that 36% of the world's population has access to the Internet, which means that just over one third of every person in the world accesses the web. In order to fight inequalities such as these and ensure the access to ICTs by individuals and organizations, governments all over the world are adopting public policies favoring the digital inclusion.

After gathering the available data, it was considered the research results are ICT Nonprofit organizations  (2012), ICT Households and Enterprises(2013), Apresentação da Tecnologia da Informação e o Terceiro Setor (Cegal, 2014). The previous experience with the international standards application were also considered for the evaluation of the brazilian scenario, as in the study As Fundações Privadas e Associações sem Fins Lucrativos no Brasil (Fasfil 2010), from the Brazilian Institution of Geography and Statistic (IBGE, 2010), and the Institution of Applied Economics (Ipea), taking into account data from the Brazilian Association of Non-Govermental Organizations (Abong) and Institutions, Foundations and Companies Group (Gife). The importance of ICTs for the third sector was analyzed, justifying the following research problem: what is the contribution from the ICTs to the non-profit organizations?

The analysis made to get answers to the research problem concerned had the previous mentioned researches as database, configuring a longitudinal study from 2005 to 2014. In order to clearly define the scope of the analysis, the information from the companies described on the specific researches were considered, according to the Classificação Nacional das Atividades Econômicas (CNAE 2.0) and Tabela de Natureza Jurídica 2009.1, from the National Classification Committee (Concla) of the last 5 (five) years and estimates from 2014 listed in monitored data from the media and other means of communication.

The results were achieved by crosschecking statistics data from quantity researches with qualitative analysis, allowing identifying the contributions of ICTs as well as its respective importance for the third sector.

On the conclusion was explored the research limitations, the remarks about the lack of studies on strategic subjects, and the opportunities that could be explored in the future.



There are reports that the consolidation and formation process of non-profit organizations started in the 1960s and 1970s - periods marked by contentious politics from military governments. In the 1980s, the expression "third sector" got practically abandoned by American literature, and the 1990s (20th century) was the period when these organizations had the biggest growth and became more visible.

Nowadays, the third sector organizations are getting more and more involved on the society's needs, performing relevant activities that often cannot be performed by the State. These activities goes from philanthropic activities, charity, cultural, religious, educational, environmental preservation, among other things, always with social goals and using more and more the ICTs. It is possible to see many voluntary activities taking place around the world through many institutions with the help of Internet and social networks with a clear contribution for the social, economic and political growth of the countries.

The nonprofit organizations have been growing due to many factors, and it is a fact that they really make the difference in the local, regional, national and even international realities. It is good to mention the extremely importance of the ICTs use, to the sector's strategic development, as means of raising detailed data about social needs.  For example, registering the attended needs; measuring data representing the impact of these organizations on society; seeing how the use of the Internet benefits the community; measuring how  the reach of social networks; tracking the creation and use of pages, and monitoring the amount of access to see where the help is needed. 

Therefore, technology can contribute with the third sector in many ways, such as, organizing groups through social networks; allowing the community itself to raise information about their social problems; allowing online debates on these social issues; organizing communities to promote debates and look for solutions of daily issues. In addition, technology enables access to the transparency of public policy, as well as its respective evaluation by citizens.




The ICTs represent the starting point to build an information society. The evolution on the access to new technologies, mobile or not, along with the huge amount of applications for devices, is massively transforming the methods of socialization of individuals, organizations, government and community, making it possible to build knowledge, cooperation networks and innovation process.

Therefore, the access to technologies have been turning into a crucial condition for the nonprofit organizations to operate, innovate and develop themselves strategically. Therefore, it is fundamental for public managers to have information related to the technology advance through reliable statistics in order to make possible to use it as reference to develop social, economic, technological and cultural development politics (TIC DOMICÍLIOS E EMPRESAS, 2013).

The appearance of several movements such as environmentalist, protection of women, youth and kids’ rights against violence, and the anti-globalization movement were encouraged by the decentralization and global articulation - an important characteristic of social movements on the information era, counting with a low level of institutionalization and has been using technological tools more and more.

Consequently, ICTs are favoring the participation and support of social causes, as they make easier the dissemination of information, allowing the individual's autonomy by generating their own ways of expression, information recovery, interaction and debates. All these interactions are provided by tools like chats, debate forums, Whatsapp, social networks like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and others, as well as cellphones and mobile media devices with high capacity of instant information and action records.

According to CGI/Cetic (2012/2013), in Brazil, 52% of the third sector organizations are already present on social networks.

There are reports of many social manifestations and waves of protest both inside and outside Brazil, the most recent journals address a huge amount of researches focusing on the chances that the Internet offers to political, economic and social mobilizations, since such waves of protest have counted with this tool as an ally for mobilization of society - according to reports of Primaveira Árabe in 2010 from Movimento Passe Livre (MPL) and protests that took place in Brazil in 2013 (against corruption and overbilling in the World Cup, changes in public services and other things), they were both organized on the Internet through the social networks (FRIEDLAND; ROGERSON, 2009, apud BARBOSA; SENNE, 2012, p. 32).

Despite the unusual use of the Internet and social networks, one of the limitations of the ICTs quoted on Barbosa's article; Senne (2012) is the fact that there are gaps requiring research, especially to determine if the objectives established by nonprofit organizations and movements were indeed achieved, and also if they kept themselves sustainable over time.

It is important to highlight the necessity of using the technologies to convert information into knowledge, especially to nonprofit organizations, since knowledge has the potential to capacitate people to make their life conditions better. The world is changing and these changes are getting the influence of the advance of new technologies. Therefore, adopting ways of e-Inclusion is needed in order to benefit everyone and making sure nobody is forgotten or marginalized, ensuring together with a democracy, a technology equality.

Many third sector organizations are not aware and still do not use the available technology products, although there are some support actions for digital inclusion. Examples of these actions are in telecenters and support programs like TechSoup[3] - an NGO founded in San Francisco, USA, in 1987, which helps nonprofits to obtain products and technology resources for their activities, helping 569.000 organizations all over the world (3.7 billions of dollars for the sector's economy).



In the last few years the third sector organizations have started to realize that new technologies are a remarkable way to raise their mutual influence network with the community, stretching the coverage, allowing new relations, creating alternatives to get their activities done, intervening on the routine, optimizing the operations and the communication flows.

It is not enough simply to use the ICTs, it must have the ability to adapt the use on the organization's mission, additionally with the concern with qualification and development actions of the human potential in nonprofit organizations.

This way, it becomes of vital value to measure the opportunities coming ICTs that have the possibility to convert the models of participation, as well as the daily activities of organizations with the opportunity to generate cooperation and social change actions.

When it comes to the importance of the use of new technologies, a vital information is the notable presence of the young people who have been participating in social movements and have been communicating predominantly on-line. These communications are not occurring only by computer, cellphones and other different resources and mobile media equipment are being configured as the basic communication channel, and the momentary registration of actions established itself as a weapon, originating other actions as a feedback of what is happening through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and others. This way, major events like the People's Summit Rio+20, the protests of June 2013 in Brazil, Free Fare Movement (Movimento Passe Livre), the campaign for vetoing the Forestry Code's reform, among others which had massive participation, especially from young people through social networks, happened through the ICTs that helped developing a favorable culture to voluntary activities.

Thus, recognizing the communication and information as a right, validates the social pledging for public policies that promote the means of communication by citizens, the variety of information, popular participation on the creation and control of public policies. In addition, the need of building the country’s internal capacity that allows organizations to take part in the learning process on the use of new technologies. Therefore, the potential of democratization of ICTs is undeniable, as well as the use and diversification of its applications favoring a country's inclusive development.



Since the emergence of third sector organizations, many opportunities appeared over the time on the political, social and technological context, and information and communication were used as key tactics on these organizations’ actions.

The information and communication technologies are important for the organizations’ sustainability and effectivity to accomplish their mission regarding: institutional communication, social mobilization around causes, and the ascension to the right of communication and information.

The use of Information and Communication Technology makes possible for organizations to become more efficient and sustainable, however, it must be seen as a facilitating agent, and not to use it shall restrict the organization's potential.

Thuzs, the ICTs can provide studies and practices oriented toward innovation, mobilization and participation from the community, promoting social campaigns, participation in international contexts, and a more proficient and strategic use of ICTs by inserting professionals highly qualified in technology, communications and information. In addition to enable the leveraging of third sector organizations actions, it can strengthen the growth of information and knowledge's society.

Therefore, the results mentioned on the study, based on the quoted surveys, show the importance of the ICTs for third sector organizations, but it is also very clear the necessity of developing the strategic use, adopting examples of practices and successful experiences, both nationally and internationally, that resulted in significant social changes.

Despite all the deliberations, it is possible to identify the great importance of the ICTs for third sector organizations. This can be observed by the presence of the organizations in social networks, the use of electronic government, in the forms of Internet use (send and receive e-mails, search for information about products and services, to improve the community, among others), on the implementation and stimulation of the use of telecenters, and on the development and appropriate use of software. All of these factors contribute for the communication between the organizations and its public, promoting its actions, accession of people with common interests, creating identity with the community that they operate, making the growth possible and generating data to performance indicators of ICTs on the promotion of third sector organizations’ social actions.



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José Avando Souza Sales is the General Manager of the Telecentre Association of Business and Information -ATN. Economist with a postgraduate degree in Planning and Human Resources Management from Fundação Getúlio Vargas. Former General Coordinator at the Postal Administration School of the Brazilian's Mail and Telegraph Company - ECT. In the Federal Government, was the representative of the Ministry of Communications in Mercosul and Information Committee at the Micro and Small Enterprises Permanent Forum, where was actively involved in the creation of the Telecentre of Information and Business Project to support digital inclusion in micro and small enterprises.

[2]A master's degree student in Information Science from University of Brasília(UNB). Specialist at Production Engineering from UniEvangélica. Postgraduate in Teaching for Professional Education. Graduated in Business Administration with specialization in International Business from the Polytechnic of Uberlândia. Worked for twelve years with industries in the field of management and quality assurance. Took part in the Integrated Management Systems implementation process (ISO9001 , ISO14001 and OSHAS 18001 ). Lead Auditor of Quality Management System (SGQ). Organizational speaker, teaches management in technical courses and in third level school on the disciplines of human resources, organization, systems and methods, information systems management, entrepreneurship and production management.

[3] In Brazil, Telecenter Association of Information and Business - ATN operates the TechSoup Brazil Program, through donation of software licenses to third sector organizations (