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GISWatch 2021-2022 puts the spotlight on digital futures for a post-pandemic world

Groundbreaking report showcases urgent calls to action from the global South

Through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic, this edition of Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch), titled "Digital futures for a post-pandemic world", highlights the different and complex ways in which democracy and human rights are at risk across the globe, and illustrates how fundamental meaningful internet access is to sustainable development. “The pandemic made inequality, discrimination, exclusion and structural inequity more palpable, and rather than stagnating in indignation, it reactivated a sense of rebellion and contestation,” observes APC’s Valeria Betancourt in the preface.

The purpose of this GISWatch was to ask two fundamental questions:

  • How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed or shaped the ways in which civil society organisations do their advocacy work around digital technology-related issues, including digital rights?    

  • How have internet rights advocacy priorities shifted due to the pandemic?

This edition is launching on 29 November 2022 at the Internet Governance Forum.

Read the Sneak Peek of GISWatch 2022-2022 on "Digital futures for a post-pandemic world"

What will you discover in the report?

This critical and urgent edition of GISWatch contains 36 country and regional chapters, together with 11 thematic chapters. The report deals with, among others, emerging issues in advocacy for access, platformisation, tech colonisation and the dominance of the private sector, internet regulation and governance, privacy and data, new trends in funding internet advocacy, and building a post-pandemic feminist agenda. 

What are GISWatch authors are saying about our digital futures post-pandemic?

“The COVID-19 pandemic showed how fragile our protection framework is when it comes to protecting people, their rights and data. Governments and companies were too easily able to deploy digital initiatives with little scrutiny, limited transparency, and weak accountability. Starting now and going forward, we must reflect on these lessons to identify where and how we must spend our energy to strengthen the protection of people and their data, and to hold governments, companies and other third parties to account across the human rights protection framework.”

– Thematic report: "Tech, data and the pandemic: Reflecting for next time” by Alexandrine Pirlot de Corbion and Gus Hosein, Privacy International

“(...) the pandemic exposed the consequences of neoliberalism and evidenced the urgency to build alternative development models that include tech developed from a sustainable perspective. New forms of regulation and policy making are key for that to be achieved; otherwise, Latin American countries, and other countries in the global South, will continue to depend on infrastructures that result in dependency, inequality, human rights violations and abuses.”

– Thematic report: “Another look at internet regulation: Lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic” by J. Carlos Lara and Jamila Venturini, Derechos Digitales

“COVID-19 dramatically highlighted the digital divide and accelerated the efforts of civil society and governments to take unprecedented steps to improve policy directives for communities to be able to be connected. (...) With the new policy momentum behind community networks, governments are now keen to see their legislation produce positive results. If they don’t see these results, it may leave the civil society movement for local access high and dry.”

– Thematic report: “Advocacy for community-led connectivity access in the global South” by Kathleen Diga, Cynthia el Khoury, Michael Jensen, Carlos Rey-Moreno and Débora Prado, APC

“There were practically no measures to minimise the effects of the health crisis on vulnerable populations. While agribusiness received prompt state support and credit facilitation in public banks, the only measure to mitigate the damages of the pandemic for traditional peoples and communities was vetoed by the president.”
– Brazil country report by Tâmara Terso, Paulo Victor Melo and Iraildon Mota, Centro de Comunicação, Democracia e Cidadania da Universidade Federal da Bahia and Intervozes

“While social media was flooded by (...) misconceptions, rumours and false information, instead of internet shutdowns, which it had relied on in the past, the government took a different approach: it relied on the efforts of civil society organisations and international NGOs to produce and disseminate good information about the pandemic through the same social media.”

– Democratic Republic of Congo country report by Pacifique Zikomangane, Mesh Bukavu

“(...) technologies that collect personal information and track people limit the right to the self-determination of personal information and the right to privacy. In the face of an infectious disease crisis, these rights restrictions can be justified to a certain extent, but they need to be within the limits allowed by international human rights norms. Could Korea’s quarantine policies be justified in light of the international norms?”

– Republic of Korea country report by Byoung-il Oh, Korean Progressive Network Jinbonet

“What do we need to do to get ready for the next pandemic? Understand that the technology we choose reflects a vision of society and, as such, anticipates our responses to the crisis. For the next crisis we need to work harder on developing adequate public policies, investment in public infrastructure, strong regulation, transparency and accountability, and public involvement.”

– Latin America and the Caribbean regional report by by Paola Ricaurte and Jacobo Nájera, Tecnológico de Monterrey, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society and Tierra Común, and May First Movement Technology and The Tor Project

...and much more groundbreaking content can be found in the full edition of GISWatch 2021-2022, launching on 29 November 2022!

Explore further
  • Read the full edition of GISWatch 2021-2022 on "Digital futures for a post-pandemic world”, launching soon!

  • Follow on Twitter with the #GISWatch and #DigitalFutures hashtags

  • Find more information on the GISWatch website

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About GISWatch

What is the Global Information Society Watch? 

GISWatch is a space for collaborative monitoring of implementation of international and national commitments made by governments towards the creation of an inclusive information society. It is a worldwide network of watchers, civil society activists monitoring the state of information and communications-related policies and how they affect their societies, positively and negatively. The network jointly publishes a book collecting thematic, regional and country reports. You can read more about it here.

What does GISWatch focus on? 

It focuses on monitoring progress made towards implementing the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) action agenda and other international and national commitments related to information and communications. It also provides analytical overviews of institutions involved in implementation. 

So is it a publication? 

Yes, but not only. GISWatch is also a process and a network of civil society activists who advocate for policy focused on human rights and sustainable development both nationally and internationally. 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.

What is the ultimate goal of this process/network?

GISWatch aims to make governments and international organisations accountable for meeting the commitments they make.

Who launched this initiative?

GISWatch is an initiative of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and partners. It follows up on APC's long-term interest in the impact of civil society on governance processes and its efforts to enhance public participation in national and international forums.

How many editions have been launched so far?

Fourteen regular GISWatch editions have been launched to date. Seven special GISWatch editions have also been published.

How many country reports does an edition include?

Most editions contain around 40 country and regional reports, along with a series of focused thematic reports by worldwide experts in each field.

How many authors have written for GISWatch?

Over 600 authors have written for GISWatch to date.

​​​​​​GISWatch in the press
Browse previous editions of GISWatch

See the covers of all the GISWatch editions: 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2020 | 2021-2022

See videos and coverage of GISWatch launches: 201820192020

GISWatch 2021-2022 highlights the different and complex ways in which democracy and human rights are at risk across the globe, and illustrates how fundamental meaningful internet access is to sustainable development. The report deals with, among others, emerging issues in advocacy for access, platformisation, tech colonisation and the dominance of the private sector, internet regulation and governance, privacy and data, new trends in funding internet advocacy, and building a post-pandemic feminist agenda. 

GISWatch 2020 seeks to understand the constructive and destructive roles that technology can play in confronting the climate crises. It disrupts the normative understanding of technology being an easy panacea to the planet’s environmental challenges and suggests that a nuanced and contextual use of technology is necessary for real sustainability to be achieved.

GISWatch 2019 looks at the intersection between artificial intelligence (AI) and human rights, social justice and development. While pointing to the positive use of AI to enable rights in ways that were not easily possible before, this edition of GISWatch highlights the real threats that we need to pay attention to if we are going to build an AI-embedded future that enables human dignity.

GISWatch 2018 focuses on local access models, specifically, community networks as self-organised, self-managed or locally developed solutions for local access. The research draws on the idea that one of the keys to affordable access is giving local people the skills and tools to solve their own connectivity challenges.

GISWatch 2017 focuses on National and Regional Internet Governance Forum Initiatives (NRIs), now widely recognised as a vital element of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) process. A special edition of GISWatch was published as a companion edition to the 2017 GISWatch annual report, called “Internet governance from the edges – NRIs in their own words”.

Another 2017 special edition brings together analysis on the criminalisation of online expression from six Asian states: Cambodia, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan and Thailand.

GISWatch 2016 illustrates the link between the internet and economic, social and cultural rights (ESCRs).

GISWatch 2015 presents stories from around the world on how the politics of sex and sexual rights activism take place online.

GISWatch 2014 tracks the state of communications surveillance around the world.

GISWatch 2013 explores women’s rights and gender through the lens of information and communications technologies, covering issues such as access to infrastructure, participation, online disobedience and sexuality online.

GISWatch 2012 focuses on internet and corruption online, including institutional reviews and mapping.

GISWatch 2011 focuses on internet rights as human rights. 

GISWatch 2010 addresses ICTs and environmental sustainability.

GISWatch 2009 reports on access to online information and knowledge – advancing human rights and democracy.

GISWatch 2008 tracks access to ICT infrastructure.

GISWatch 2007 explores citizen participation in ICT policy processes.

About APC

APC is an international network of civil society organisations founded in 1990 dedicated to empowering and supporting people working for peace, human rights, development and protection of the environment, through the strategic use of information and communication technologies (ICTs). We work to build a world in which all people have easy, equal and affordable access to the creative potential of ICTs to improve their lives and create more democratic and egalitarian societies. Visit us at