2009 - Access to Online Information and Knowledge
Overall, 2008-2009 has seen a remarkable forward momentum in the adoption of policies and interventions for access to knowledge at all levels – among international agencies, national governments and institutions in the developed and developing world. 
We live in a divided world where far too many people live in abject poverty. To help these people get out of poverty is good for the world as a whole, for great disparities in wealth will lead to violence and terrorism and no one can live in peace and harmony. None of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) can be achieved if we fail to address the problem of poverty and ensure livelihood security for the majority of the poor.
Not so long ago, to gain access to information about the law, one had to go to a specialised law library, to a courthouse, or to a legislature. In many parts of Europe and the United States (US), today, the primary law is published online. If you want to know about legislation recently passed in the US Congress, the answer is a Google search away. The same is true of a new opinion handed down from the Supreme Court. Publication tends to be prompt; access is nearly instantaneous and free.
The issues of access to information and intellectual property (IP) rights are fundamentally intertwined. A properly calibrated IP system is one of several factors that can facilitate access to information by protecting incentives to create and disseminate content while simultaneously safeguarding the human rights of freedom of expression, communication and cultural participation. Equilibrium in IP law, policy and practice is affected by a number of key issues and institutions.
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.
Anriette Esterhuysen (APC)
Paul Maassen (Hivos)
Loe Schout (Hivos)
Monique Doppert (Hivos)
Karen Higgs (APC)
Natasha Primo (APC)
Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch) 2009 is the third in a series of yearly reports critically covering the state of the information society from the perspectives of civil society organisations across the world. GISWatch has three interrelated goals: