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Monday, September 28, 2015

Right to Know Day insights into international best practice tools for open government

On Right to Know Day  NSW Information Commissioner Elizabeth Tydd released a report by Professor Anita Stuhmcke of the University of Technology, Sydney commissioned by the IPC that provides an insight into the types of practical mechanisms utilised in selected international jurisdictions to promote open government through information sharing and citizen engagement. 

Despite the title
"Advancing the objects of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW): an international comparative evaluation of measures used to promote government information release" 
the report is relevant anywhere policy makers (hopefully) and advocates (certainly) are wrestling with the challenge of how to encourage proactive release of government information.

From the Executive Summary

SECTION 3: The Concept of Open Government: History and challenges
"This report bases its findings upon the three characteristics of open government as defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD): transparency, accessibility, and responsiveness. Proactive release of government information is a critical plank in building these characteristics.

In Australian jurisdictions there are cultural and organisational barriers to information release. These barriers have become increasingly evident due to the rapidly changing context within which the promotion of government information sharing occurs. Technology has heightened expectations as to efficient release and effective use of government data. However as technology continues to drive change to governance models the government response can be characterised as slow and uncoordinated. In Australia macro and micro policy reform has not grappled with information sharing between agencies nor adequately addressed existing barriers to information release from government agencies to the public. This approach seems set to continue."
(Comment: Is that noise in the background Prime Minister Turnbull coming down the corridor to set the situation right ?)

SECTION 4: Leading International Jurisdictions: How open government should look
"The open government movement is global. Public data is big business and promises a new model of democratic interaction between citizen and government. In 2011 the international Open Government Partnership (OGP) was launched as an initiative by 8 founding governments. Today this includes 65 countries. This report identifies the governments which lead the international open government rankings. The United Kingdom is typically identified as the world leader in this area. The report then uses these comparative jurisdictions to identify:
(a) three switches to encourage inter-agency information sharing (see Section 5); and
(b) eight practical mechanisms to encourage proactive government information release to the public (see Section 6)."

(Comment: PM Turnbull-a great week to end years of dithering and commit Australia to continuing as a member of the Open Government Partnership?

SECTION 5: Encouraging information release in open government: Strategic tangible mechanisms to promote information sharing by government agencies
"In Australia the closed government culture is a barrier to open data policy. This section identifies three switches to overcome the behavioural/oganisational issues which prevent information sharing:
Switch 1
Legislative/structural features that build success: promoting a model of proactive agency information sharing
Best practice UK regulatory model that facilitates exchange of data between agencies (Data Protection Principles and Data Sharing Code of Practice)
Switch 2
Promoting proactive release of government data across organisational walls: Recognise and reward the individual
Promote agency Open Data Champions; individual data release prizes and challenges; and identify agency data ‘boundary spanners’
Switch 3
Build inter-agency trust: the use of soft regulation
Adopt UK ‘Personal Information Promise’; investigate multi-agency models; develop feedback loops on information sharing."

(Comment: follow the UK lead where the legal requirements for data sharing are legally enforceableby the ICO.)
 SECTION 6: Encouraging information release in open government: Strategic tangible mechanisms to promote information release by government to the public
"This project approaches the sharing of government information between agencies and release of government information to the public as initiatives which involve more than putting government data on the Internet. The eight mechanisms identified in Section 6 are:
Mechanisms to promote transparency:
1: Democratize information sharing through using Games Contests, App development and Hackathons (Civic Hacking) to crowd source ideas and promote government information release
2: Measure government performance and encourage citizen rankings
Mechanisms to promote accessibility:
3: Select policy area as the moderator for transparency and usage by combining a bottom-up and top-down approach to select specific data sets for release
4: Use non-government platforms to promote government information
5: Promote republishing and re-using government data
Mechanisms to promote responsiveness:
6: Integrate citizens, consumers and non-government organisations into policy making
7: Ensure sustainable change through the integration of “ecosystems” of key actors
8: Encourage production of government information through individual citizen contributions."

(Comment: law review is also necessary - to broaden pro-active publication requirements to reflect 21st century public expectations, and modernise freedom of information still stuck in a 1980s paper world in some jurisdictions. (NSW and Queensland better than the rest but statutory reviews in both states, conducted largely behind closed doors, have disappeared into government black holes.) And ensure there is a clear leader and advocate, and an oversight body with resources and clout to make things happen)
(Good on SBS, BTW). Addendum; So too 612 ABC Brisbane)


  1. Anonymous6:27 pm

    Is the report paid for by the NSW taxpayers and published by an agency of the oversight branch of government? If so, is there a special reason why the links do not appear willing to assist one to download it for a read at one's leasure, but instead the links seem to be directing one to some private appearing enterprise that appears to be located in the USA and Denmark and seems to want to collect my personal information before it lets me in? Is there a special reason why in open government week one just cannot obtain a downloaded copy of the report commissioned by the champion of open government about open government?

  2. I don't know why it is not on the IPC website-maybe something to do with arrangements with UTS. Perhaps the IPC can explain?

  3. The Media release and a link to download the report are now on the IPC website:

    1. Anonymous1:20 pm

      Many thanks. Your assistance is appreciated.