Open by design – International Access to Information Day
International Access to Information Day (IAI Day) is on September 28. This year’s theme Open by design: Government transparency everyone can see recognises the value of proactively releasing information, particularly in times of crisis and recovery.
IPAA Queensland spoke to the Queensland Information Commissioner Rachael Rangihaeata about the open by design approach to information access and how it delivers better outcomes for community and government.
We are pleased to share some of her comments below.
What is open by design?
Open by design is not new. It has been around since the Right to Information Act (2009) was adopted by the Queensland Government over 10 years ago. RTI and open by design reflects a ‘push’ or ‘pro-disclosure’ model (in contrast to earlier Freedom of Information legislation).
Open by design promotes identifying the types of government-held information commonly requested, or of value to the Australian community, and proactively releasing this information before it is requested through a formal access application.
The release of information needs to be considered carefully on its own merits. The concept supports that information should be released under right to information laws unless, on balance, to disclose it would be contrary to the public interest.
The open by design concept is not just about the types of information released. The concept also encourages governments to think about how information is released and accessed. For example, is it timely and accurate? Is it accessible through different means and in alternative formats?
What advice can you give agencies to help maximise an open by design model?
By supporting and encouraging information release, agency leaders play an important role in promoting an open by design culture. When everyone, regardless of their level or job, understands the value of information release they can better contribute to greater openness and transparency.
Agencies can maximise the model by:
- Embracing the right to access information every day – not just on IAI Day
- Improving administrative efficiencies to reduce the need for formal access requests
- Monitoring and responding to stakeholder information needs and continually considering what further documents can be made proactively available
- Using innovative ways to facilitate greater and easier access to information
- Publishing information that is easy to access, meaningful and timely
- Engaging the public in government decision making particularly during a pandemic.
What are the benefits of an open by design approach?
An open by design approach is fundamental to building trust in government.
When agencies adopt the open by design approach, the benefits are significant. Information reaches the community faster, increases public participation and enhances decision making, builds trust and confidence, improves service delivery and improves efficiency by reducing the need for formal access requests.
This is particularly important during times of crisis and recovery, like a pandemic. Communities with access to timely, accurate and relevant information stay informed of the situation, are less likely to spread misinformation and are empowered to make decisions about matters affecting them.
What responsibilities do public servants have under the Right to Information Act 2009?
There are four key areas of responsibilities for public servants. A great tool is to check out OIC’s Quick Guide for Public Servants.
What about the community and citizens? What advice is there for accessing government information?
There are some helpful animations describing how to access government information in Queensland and in Australia. These can be accessed via the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) website – www.oic.qld.gov.au or directly below.
Queensland Government Australian Government
Finally, what’s your vision for information access in Queensland?
We all want to live in a world where government and public sector agencies are open, transparent and accountable. At the Office of the Information Commissioner, we believe releasing information to the community proactively or on request is a fundamental building block in a democratic society.
The right to information and transparency ultimately builds trust, unity and it can lead to better decision-making. We know Queensland’s recovery from COVID-19 will rely on access to information, which is critical to influencing community behaviour and informed decisions for achieving health, economic and social responses and recovery.
With the support of Queensland public sector agencies, we can promote the value of access to information during times of crisis and build greater trust through transparency.
For more information about Right to Information or for International Access to Information Day in Queensland, visit the OIC website.