Introduction: Access to online information and knowledge – advancing human rights and democracy

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Information and knowledge are crucial factors in human development. We are reminded of this constantly, from the “knowledge economy” we live in, to the emotional and financial power that information and communications technologies (ICTs) have over our lives. In the words of philosopher Francis Bacon, “Scientia potentia est” – knowledge itself is power. Present-day movements for access to knowledge and the right to information have their origins in this simple and arguably ancient idea.

Institutional Overview


Access to information and knowledge is a governance domain involving a broad range of stakeholders at different levels. As will be apparent from some of the thematic reports in this volume, this results from the diversity of the issues it subsumes, including intellectual property rights, access to public information, open standards, broader communications rights such as freedom of expression, and issues around ownership of and participation in the media.