Global Information Society Watch 2016 on economic, social and cultural rights and the internet to be launched in Mexico

A groundbreaking report on economic, social and cultural rights (ESCRs) and the internet will be released at the Internet Governance Forum in Guadalajara, Mexico, on 9 December 2016.

The latest edition of the Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch) report will look at the role of the internet in realising economic, social and cultural rights (ESCRs). In the same way that the internet is essential to sustainable development, it is increasingly becoming an important enabler of ESCRs, such as the right to education, to cultural expression, and to the benefits of science and technology. Yet the role of the internet in achieving ESCRs has received little attention when it comes to recent internet rights advocacy, with many choosing to focus instead on the importance of civil and political rights.

To develop this report we asked researchers in 45 countries to investigate the relationship between ESCRs and the internet in their local contexts. After selecting one or more of these rights, the authors have asked questions such as, “What is the role of the internet in achieving the rights enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights?” “Has the internet become essential to many of these rights?” “How does the internet impact on the social and economic rights of women?” “What is the role of the state when it comes to formulating internet policies in line with these rights? What is the role of the private sector? Who are the actors involved, and what stands in our way for achieving these rights?”

GISWatch 2016 aims to unpack the relationship between ESCRs and the internet by sharing these 45 country-level stories that serve as practical and lively examples of how the internet is being used – or could be used – to realise these important human rights, or that illustrate the relationship between the internet and ESCRs. Some of the topics will be familiar to information and communications technology for development (ICT4D) activists: the right to health, education and culture; the socioeconomic empowerment of women using the internet; the inclusion of rural and indigenous communities in the information society; and the use of ICT to combat the marginalisation of local languages. Others deal with relatively new areas of exploration, such as using 3D printing technology to preserve cultural heritage, creating participatory community networks to capture an “inventory of things” that enables socioeconomic rights, crowdfunding to realise rights, or the negative impact of algorithms on calculating social benefits. Workers’ rights receive some attention, as does the use of the internet during natural disasters.

Ten thematic reports frame the country reports. These deal both with overarching concerns when it comes to ESCRs and the internet – such as institutional frameworks and policy considerations – as well as more specific issues that impact on our rights: the legal justification for online education resources, the plight of migrant domestic workers, the use of digital databases to protect traditional knowledge from biopiracy, digital archiving, and the impact of multilateral trade deals on the international human rights framework.

The reports highlight the institutional and country-level possibilities and challenges that civil society faces in using the internet to enable ESCRs. They also suggest that in a number of instances, individuals, groups and communities are using the internet to enact their socioeconomic and cultural rights in the face of disinterest, inaction or censure by the state.

What is GISWatch?

GISWatch is collaborative community committed to building an open, inclusive and sustainable information society. The GISWatch reports are a series of yearly reports covering the state of the information society from the perspectives of civil society, but GISWatch is not only a publication, it is a process. The long-term goal of the project is to build policy analysis skills and “habits” into the work of civil society organisations that work in the areas of ICT for development, democracy and social justice.

GISWatch 2016 was published by the Association for Progressive Communications with the aid of a grant from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Ottawa, Canada, as part of the APC project “A rights-based approach to internet policy and governance for the advancement of economic, social and cultural rights”.

This year’s GISWatch is the 10th edition of the annual report, marking a significant milestone in a process that has evolved in line with the challenges and tensions of internet rights, generating increased attention to and impact of the GISWatch publications. Previous reports explored such themes as Focus on ParticipationAccess to InfrastructureAccess to Online Information and KnowledgeICTs and Environmental Sustainability, Internet Rights and Democratisation, The Internet and Corruption, Communications Rights Ten Years after WSIS, Women’s Rights, Gender and ICTs, Communications Surveillance and Sexual Rights and the Internet.

When will the report be launched?

Friday 9 December 2015, 9:00 AM (GMT -6)


At the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Guadalajara, Mexico, in Workshop Room 5.
Several of the report authors will be presenting their research at the event.

Can it be followed remotely?

You can follow the launch through the #IGF2016 and #GISWatch2016 hashtags. After the launch, we will “unlock” the report and you will be able to download it from the GISWatch website (

Meanwhile, follow @APC_News and #GISWatch2016 for teasers and insights on the process, and stay tuned!