Agencies encouraged to reflect on transparency on International Access to Information Day

For International Access to Information Day (IAID) on September 28, ombudspersons and information commissioners released a joint statement encouraging agencies to implement proactive disclosure best practices.

The theme of this year’s IAID was artificial intelligence, e-governance and access to information.

Talk to MandarinJoanne Kummrow, of the Information Commissioner’s Office in Victoria, said the day was a chance for public sector agencies to pause and reflect, noting the use of artificial intelligence to identify documents to publish.

“We would like agencies to think about how they create records, manage records, store archival material, so they can make it available to the public,” said the deputy access commissioner of the audience.

“Ultimately, at the grassroots,” Krummow continued, “our message is to provide public sector agencies with the thinking of openness and transparency by design, and to be open to greater access to information”.

The importance of transparency to public trust should not be underestimated, Krummow said.

“If the government has the public’s trust, people are more willing to adopt government policies and follow government directives.

“We have seen this through the COVID pandemic, where people have been informed of case numbers and policy decisions and health directives and orders. When they understood the basis for taking these commands, they were more likely to comply.

The deputy commissioner added that greater transparency has enabled informed public debate in government decision-making.

Among several recommendations, in the joint statement, senior officials called for a transparent proactive disclosure approach, integrating proactive disclosure through governance mechanisms, and agencies continuously monitoring the types of information that can be disclosed.

The statement was a joint effort across jurisdictions, co-signed by Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk and Freedom of Information Commissioner Leo Hardiman.

It was also signed by the following Information Commissioners: Sven Bluemmel from Victoria, Rachael Rangiheata from Queensland, Catherine Fletcher from Western Australia, Elizabeth Tydd from NSW and Peter Shoyer from NT.

The mediators who signed were Wayne Lines in South Australia, Richard Connock in Tasmania and Iain Anderson in the ACT.

Queensland Information Commissioner Rangiheata added that the use of artificial intelligence must be done with caution.

“AI can provide more efficient and higher quality services to the community, but it must be designed and used in an open, transparent, ethical and accountable way, in line with community values ​​and expectations,” Rangihaeata said.


AI, e-governance and access to information: why digital government must remain accountable to citizens