Government agencies mostly complying with transparency reforms

Challenges include making information discoverable and accessible.

Most Australian agencies publish public documents on their websites as required by open government reforms that became effective in May 2011, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner said.

Agencies must publish public documents on their websites under open government reforms passed in 2010 to revise the 1982 Freedom of Information Act. The information commissioner surveyed the agencies in May this year.

Of the 78 per cent of agencies who responded to the survey, 85 per cent said they “publish the required categories of information on their websites, including information about their structure, functions, appointments and consultation arrangements,” said Australian Information Commissioner John McMillan. In addition, 94 per cent “are publishing operational information that shows how decisions that affect members of the public are made,” he said.

However, some challenges remain. Of the agencies responding to the survey, 30 per cent said they are having difficulty making public information discoverable and usable, while 28 per cent said providing open access to information was a challenge, the Office said. Some 17 per cent said it was difficult to implement robust information asset management. McMillan said another challenge for agencies was making information accessible to people with disabilities.

“Reasons for these difficulties included out-dated agency record keeping systems, differing information management practices operating in the same agency and a lack of resources to reformat old documents for digital publication,” the Office said.

“Going forward, agencies will need help in making information more discoverable, including by applying metadata,” McMillan said. “For this reason the OAIC will continue to work with information management stakeholders to share best practice experiences and offer as much support as possible.”

The survey results are available on the Office’s website.

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