The Information Program confronts the potential of digital technologies—both the opportunities they present for civic participation, inclusive education, and accountable governance, and the new threats they pose to open society values.
The Information Program’s terrain is the new—networked—public sphere, the space fusing participatory online networks with traditional institutions and media, which is now both a central battleground in many struggles for open society, and an arena rich with opportunities to foster open society. Below are some of our main areas of focus.
Skills & Capabilities in the Networked Public Sphere
New technologies, a proliferation of communication channels, and the rising flood of data are upending advocacy. Skills & Capabilities in the Networked Public Sphere works with an emerging field of technology strategists, data scientists, security experts, designers, and trainers to magnify the impact of actors in the human rights and transparency sectors. Program grantees work with new approaches to harvesting and deploying data to strengthen advocacy and enable activists to use data and technology to maximum effect. The field also includes a growing cohort of organizations devoted to mitigating the serious and persistent online threats to which activists are exposed. Our work seeks to advance genuine accountability and human rights work through the release, development, and use of high-value data sets.
Civil Liberties in the Digital Environment
Digital technologies are rendering our actions, public and private, into data sets that governments and corporations can track, control, and often own outright. To counter these new threats to fundamental rights, including privacy, freedom of expression, and due process, we are working to strengthen civil society organizations that combine mastery of these technologies with advocacy for human rights.
We support responses to the ongoing revelations about surveillance that raise public awareness of its impact on basic freedoms, document current surveillance practices, and ultimately advocate for stronger legislative privacy protections. We have a particular interest in the rise of “big data” and creative approaches to mitigate its harms for open societies. We also support work to strengthen freedom of expression and due process protections on the privately owned platforms that are now essential for public discussion, through new applications of existing human rights instruments.
Access to Knowledge
The global intellectual property (IP) regime remains skewed in favor of incumbent rights-holders. Rather than building public goods, huge public investments in education and research are still captured by outmoded, privatizing models. We support a global movement righting the balance through combatting regressive IP laws; putting forward affirmative new frameworks, like the WIPO Treaty for the Visually Impaired; and campaigning for public access to publicly funded knowledge resources.
To broaden access to research and learning, especially in poorer countries, we support campaigns to redirect public investment in academic research literature and educational resources into open, freely accessible forms.