This is a cand. scient. (M. Sc.) thesis in informatics submitted to the Department of Informatics at the University of Oslo.
The thesis presents the results of a study concerning how and to what extent patient associations in Norway use the Internet and the consequences of this use. Furthermore, the study aims to understand future opportunities and challenges related to Internet-use in such organizations.
The study was carried out as a survey in which 52 patient associations answered a questionnaire, followed up by interviews with representatives of five organizations. 38 of the 52 patient associations use the Internet, mainly as a means to inform their members (and others) and to collect medical information. So far few organizations offer interactive facilities for communication. However, in the organizations which do so, such facilities seem to encurage members of patient associations to participate more actively. Members then also tend, on their own, to establish so-called Virtual Communities (e.g. Aagren (1997), Kollock & Smith (1999)) in which they exchange experience and information. This indicates that merely by supplying interactive facilities the patient associations may engage more members in their activities and thus strengthen the organization and increase its political influence.