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Monday, February 25, 2013

Open government in transition: keep watch, still to come

 The report "Open Public sector information: from principles to practice" released on Friday by Australian Information Commissioner Professor John McMillan contains the results of a survey conducted in April and May 2012 of information management practices in Australian Government agencies, in particular how the Open Public Sector Information Principles were being implemented.

Professor McMillan's key take away is "that Australian Government agencies are actively embracing an open access and proactive disclosure culture" although there are "many policy challenges and practical obstacles that must be tackled. It is more a time of transition than fulfilment."

I haven't been through the report in detail but what stands out on the openness front are problems of awareness, attitude, leadership, resources and the limited powers in legislation or with the OAIC to require agencies to publish information that should be in the public domain.

The report includes a section on the advantages of keeping abreast of international developments for example through the Open Government Partnership, and after extolling the importance of top level leadership here at home, a polite public service plea for more help:
"..there has not since been the same explicit promotion of open government reform and cultural change by Government as occurred in 2009–10. We believe that explicit support would be valuable and timely in continuing the watershed reforms."
The PM's "let the sunshine in" moment of September 2010 could do with a rerun. Often.

The Sydney Morning Herald sub -editor, with some justification, saw the absence of political leadership as the story: "Openness policy stymied from the top"

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