Open Government embodies a collective right, a right enjoyed for the benefit of communities. This right provides the foundation upon which we as a fair and open society effectively uphold and actively participate in our system of democracy.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) describes Open Government as:
The transparency of government actions, the accessibility of government services and information, and the responsiveness of government to new ideas, demands and needs’. Australia’s commitment to open government is described as being built upon three key principles: strengthening access to information, collaborating with citizens on policy and service delivery, and making government more consultative and participative (OECD).
Open Government and the GIPA Act
Achieving Open Government requires legislation to enshrine citizens’ right to access information and authorise decision-makers to release information. Citizens expect government decision-making to be open, transparent and accountable and the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act) represents NSW Parliament’s commitment to realising that expectation.
The object of the GIPA Act is to open government information to the public in order to “… maintain and advance a system of responsible and representative democratic Government that is open, accountable, fair and effective”.
The three fundamental elements of Open Government enshrined under the GIPA Act are:
• a legislated right to access information proactively and reactively
• the right to hold government to account and to expect transparency
• public participation by citizens in government decision-making.
In 2017, the NSW Information Commissioner released the Report on the Operation of the Government Information (Public Access) Act (2009) for 2015-16. The theme of this report is: “Open Government, Open Access, Open Data”.
An extract from the Report has been developed in video format. Click here to view the videographic: The GIPA Act and Open Data (mp4, 8MB).
NSW commitment to Open Government
A key priority of the NSW Government ICT Strategy is a commitment to Open Government. The ICT Strategy requires agencies to publish their Open Government Plans to report progress on implementing the principles of open government and to showcase current initiatives. A Premier's Memorandum accompanied the launch of the first ICT Strategy in 2012 advising Ministers of the Government’s commitment to a new era of Open Government.
Open Government and Open Data
Open Data is an important aspect of Open Government that provides the public with access to information in a variety of formats. Increasing the amount of government data that is available improves transparency and accountability within government, supports evidence-based policy development and provides a platform for innovation.
With the launch of the NSW Open Data Policy in April 2016, the NSW Government appointed the Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Tydd, as NSW Open Data Advocate. The Open Data Advocate plays a key role in ensuring that the NSW Open Data Policy is successfully implemented.
As Open Data Advocate, the Information Commissioner encourages the proactive public release of government information by agencies in ways that are respectful of data sharing safeguards, as well as providing information, advice and assistance to agencies and members of the public on access to government information.
Click here to view the Open Data: Opening our World infographic featuring case studies and examples of how Open Data has been used to enhance the way we live and work.
Open Government Partnership and National Action Plan
The multilateral Open Government Partnership (OGP) was created to secure commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness technologies to strengthen governance. There are now 70 countries – including Australia – participating in the OGP.
National Action Plan
On 7 December 2016, the Australian Government announced the finalisation of Australia’s first Open Government National Action Plan. The Plan contains 15 ambitious commitments focused on: transparency and accountability in business; open data and digital transformation; access to government information; integrity in the public sector; and public participation and engagement.
State and Territory Information Access Commissioners and Ombudsmen, led by New South Wales, contributed to the development of the Plan through the inclusion of Commitment 3.2 on information access rights utilisation.
Further information on Australia’s involvement in the OGP, including the Plan, is available at ogpau.pmc.gov.au
Development of national metrics
Under Commitment 3.2, the NSW Information Commissioner is leading work by Australian Information Commissioners and Ombudsmen to develop (within the remit of their jurisdictions) uniform metrics on public use of freedom of information access rights and the collection and publication of this data. The objective is that Australia will better measure and improve our understanding of the public’s use of rights under freedom of information laws.
The scope of the metrics cover:
- Type of applicant
- Application rates per capita
- Release rates
- Refusal rates
- Review rates
In line with the milestones for Commitment 3.2 detailed in the National Action Plan, over the next few months NSW will lead a validation and pilot process for data collection and presentation, for release of the first data report using the metrics by the end of 2017.
Members of the public, experts and other stakeholders are invited to contribute to the ongoing development of the metrics. Ideas or comments that will assist in building a more complete picture of freedom of information access rights use in Australia can be sent to email@example.com.