Preface to the 2009 Report

Freedom of expression and the free flow of information and knowledge are essential to democratic societies. Therefore the focus of this year’s  Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch) report is “access to online information and knowledge – advancing human rights and democracy”.

GISWatch aims to be a leading platform for civil society perspectives on the state of the information society. Through encouraging individuals and organisations to contribute, it also aims to strengthen and support networking platforms, and build capacity in research, analysis and writing.

The rationale for this annual process of stocktaking – resulting in a print and online report – is that it helps to give focus and context to the policy development process, and to civil society networking and advocacy at the local, regional and global levels.

GISWatch wants to help overcome disparities in access to ICTs while also advocating for human rights, promoting education and public access to information, women’s empowerment and economic prosperity. This can only be accomplished – according to the Tunis Commitment – through the involvement, cooperation and partnership of governments, the private sector, civil society and international organisations.

GISWatch 2009 is dedicated to Amy K. Mahan. Amy was part of  GISWatch since its conception and, as a special contributor, wrote the section called “Measuring progress” for  GISWatch 2007 and GISWatch 2008. If not for her untimely death on 5 March 2009, she would have undoubtedly been part of  GISWatch 2009. Amy touched all who worked with her, leaving a legacy of activist work that aspires to combine intellectual rigour and concrete outcomes that make a difference in the lives of people who lack access to resources and power.

We are pleased to present to you the third edition of the report. We truly believe this critical contribution to building a people-centred information society will eventually have its impact on policy development processes across the world.

Anriette Esterhuysen
Director, Association for Progressive Communications (APC)

Manuela Monteiro
Director, Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries (Hivos)