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Monday, August 20, 2012

Progress report on Information Publication Scheme

Commonwealth government agencies that undertook a self-assessment on compliance with the Information Publication Scheme (IPS) requirements of the Freedom of Information Act, perhaps not surprisingly, give themselves generally good marks. A more objective assessment awaits a Desktop Review Program of agency websites to be undertaken by the Office of Australian Information Commissioner to commence this year, and the individual results of review of the IPS by each agency to be conducted in conjunction with the OAIC in the five year period from commencement of the scheme in May 2011.

As to what those who take an interest in particular agencies, and the general public make of the scope, quality, accessibility and searchability of the new world of information published in the various IPS's, for another day perhaps.

With regard to this first survey, Australian Information Commissioner Professor John McMillan in the Foreword to the Report prepared by ORIMA Research comments:
The survey results are pleasing. Seventy-eight per cent of agencies that were contacted (191 of 245 agencies) completed the survey questionnaire (many that did not are small boards or committees that are supported by larger agencies). The results confirm a serious commitment across government to complying with IPS requirements and principles. Nearly all agencies have published an IPS Plan; over 85 per cent publish the required categories of information on their websites; 94 per cent publish operational information that provides guidance on how decisions are made that affect members of the public; and 93 per cent have assigned responsibility for IPS compliance to a senior agency officer."
Some aspects of performance on two criteria, IPS Information Architecture and IPS Governance and Administration, were in the "could do better" category. On the former only just over half of the agencies reported that they had established a range of governance and administrative processes required to support the implementation and maintenance of the IPS. On the latter, while more than three-quarters indicated that they use seven out of 10 of the recommended headings (as referred to in the FOI Guidelines) for presenting IPS Information on their websites, a smaller number use headings - ‘Our priorities' (58 per cent), ‘Our finances' (53 per cent) and ‘Our lists' (51 per cent).

On possibly helpful website features that may assist in ensuring IPS information is easily discoverable and understandable, eighty-one per cent reported that they provide a search function on their website; a smaller proportion indicated they have a mechanism on their website to gather feedback on the ease of finding and understanding their IPS entries (66 per cent) and include the IPS icon on their homepage (59 per cent); and twenty-six per cent of agencies indicated they had an alert service that notifies subscribers of new publications.

The survey showed that 79 per cent of agencies indicated that at least some of the documents published on their websites were not currently compatible with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 accessibility requirements:
  • Twenty per cent of agencies indicated that all published documents under the IPS conform to WCAG 2.0 requirements, with 30 per cent indicated that most of their documents comply, 44 per cent indicated that some comply and five per cent indicated that none of their documents comply.
Among the jurisdictions that took the big leap forward 2007-2010, Queensland has set the pace in performance review with this assessment of agency progress on RTI reforms, and these results of a desk top audit on agency compliance with RTI publication requirements. I've yet to see anything from NSW and Tasmania.

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