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.
The OpeningScholarship Project, Centre For Educational Technology, University of Cape Town
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.
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.