3.2 - Understand the use of freedom of information
This commitment aims to better measure and improve our understanding of the public’s use of rights under freedom of information laws. We will do this by working with states and territories to develop uniform metrics on public use of freedom of information access rights, and by collecting and publishing this data.
There is currently a lack of a baseline, coherent national perspective that incorporates all jurisdictions.
The outcome will be a national view of the use of FOI laws which will help build a more complete picture of freedom of information rights in Australia and could help governments improve processing of information access requests. Importantly, international measurements have been developed by the World Justice Project and published as the Open Government Index 2015. That index considers four quadrants to measure open government, and ranks countries around the world. The quadrants are:
- publicised laws and government data
- the legislated right to information
- opportunities for civic participation, and
- complaint mechanisms.
The 2015 Open Government Index found that there was no relationship between the presence of right to information laws and how successfully those laws work in practice. Measuring the effectiveness of right to information laws is essential to ascertaining how they are being accessed by citizens and the operation of these laws in practice. As a democratic society it is important that we have systems in place to measure the how citizens are using the legislated right to information and the provision of information in a timely, effective manner by governments in response to citizen requests. The proposed metrics will align with World Justice Project Open Government Index measures and facilitate an assessment of the right to information, the exercise of that right and the effectiveness of that right in providing information to citizens.
The commitment directly addresses the OGP access to information and public accountability values by providing a national perspective on the operation of laws, for example identifying the extent to which decisions are made on time.
The value of the metrics is that they will:
- enable the community to compare the performance of their local FOI laws with those in other states/territories/Commonwealth and advocate accordingly
- improve community understanding of how FOI laws work
- stimulate discussion on what makes for ‘good’ FOI laws and performance
- support related commitments under the National Action Plan, such as commitment 3.1 – Information management and access laws for the 21st century; and
- provide a baseline for measuring changes in FOI laws and the impact of Australia’s National Action Plan.
The development of the metrics is being led by the NSW Information Commissioner on behalf of the Association of Information Access Commissioners (AIAC) within the remit of each of their jurisdictions.
The AIAC established an officer-level Working Group with representatives from each jurisdiction to develop the proposed metrics. The Working Group has been supported by the NSW IPC
The NSW IPC worked and engaged with civil society representatives on the National Action Plan Interim Working Group (IWG) to develop a consultation strategy on the metrics. The recommended approach was a survey of the public.
A survey was released on 18 July 2017 and distributed broadly through the NSW IPC, AIAC, Interim Working Group and OGP Secretariat. The survey was also directly sent by the IPC to the OGP civil society distribution list and contacts nominated by civil society representatives on the Interim Working Group. It was also promoted through the OGP Australia website, IPC Bulletin and via Twitter. The survey closed on 9 August 2017.
Forty-two responses to the survey were received, including one response provided directly rather than through the survey mechanism.
The feedback was considered and used in the preparation of the final metrics presented to the AIAC at its September 2017 meeting for approval and use in delivering a dataset dashboard for publication.
On 27 November the IPC released the metrics and dataset on its website.
Documents released are:
- the dashboard of metrics
- description of the individual metrics including data caveats
- a summary of feedback received during the consultation phase
- link to the jurisdictional compendium on current information access laws across Australia
Collateral including tweets, blog posts, a joint statement from the AIAC and other materials were developed and circulated to jurisdictions to support a consistent, national communications strategy. The metrics were highlighted in an article in The Mandarin on 28 November 2017.On 27 November the IPC released the metrics and dataset on its website.
Government: Information Commissioners (Commonwealth, NSW, NT, Queensland, Victoria and WA), and Ombudsmen (SA and Tasmania).
Non-Government: The IPC has established contact with the OpenAustralia Foundation and is engaging with other civil society representatives.
Steps to implementation
|Implementation Step||Implementation Period||Status|
Information Commissioners and Ombudsman to agree and publish metrics on information access rights, aligned with the Open Government Index.
|Dec 2016||Completed but delayed|
Undertake pilot for data collection and validation for the 2014/15 financial year.
Data collection and validation for the 2015/16 financial year.
Publicly release dataset on 2015/16 metrics.
Status updates for commitments are provided approximately every two months. With each update, agencies are encouraged to provide further and better particulars of the commitment and its steps to implementation, which may result in changes to timelines outlined in Australia’s first Open Government National Action Plan 2016-18.