This week is Right to Know Week NSW. This year, the theme is Right to Know: Future-proofing information access rights.
Right to Know Week NSW is an important initiative that aims to raise awareness of each individual’s right of access to government information and promote open, transparent government. This right is underpinned in NSW through the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act).
The GIPA Act establishes a proactive and open approach to gaining access to government information in NSW. The objects of the GIPA Act are to maintain and advance a system of responsible and representative democratic government that is open, accountable, fair and effective.
The increasing digitisation of government has implications for how governments can improve outcomes for citizens seeking access to government information. In upholding the right to access information, individuals can understand and have confidence in how governments make decisions and, importantly, assert their rights in respect of those decisions. There is an increasing need to promote accountability and transparency and to assure Open Government.
Open Government and Open Data
Achieving Open Government requires legislation to enshrine a citizen's right to access information and authorise decision-makers to release information. 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 available improves transparency and accountability within government, supports evidence-based policy development and provides a platform for innovation. Two examples of open data are the NSW Flood Data Portal and Data.NSW publication of COVID-19 data.
Launched in late 2017 by the NSW State Emergency Service and the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, the NSW Flood Data Portal aims to improve the sharing of key flood data within government and with other stakeholders to support decision-making.
It is a requirement that projects funded under the NSW Flood Management Program are uploaded to the Portal. Local councils, consultants and state government agencies upload data and reports, which are made available via the Portal. Some datasets are publicly available, and the Portal is accessible via Data.NSW.
The availability of state-wide flood data provides the public with access to information, improves transparency and accountability within government, supports evidence-based policy development and provides a platform for innovation.
As at August 2020, the Portal includes over 1,300 flood projects, 2,300 data sets (468 of them public) and involves 149 organisations.
Open Government Partnership – Data.NSW Case Study
The Open Government Partnership featured only one Australian case study on its website – the COVID-19 data on Data.NSW – as part of a worldwide approach to share open government approaches to tackling COVID-19 being implemented by governments, citizens or the private sector.
NSW has established a central source of COVID-19 information for NSW citizens using open data. The number and location of confirmed COVID-19 cases by postcode, age groups and likely sources of infection, as well as testing information, is available on Data.NSW.
Interested in learning more?
For more information on Right to Know Week, see the IPC's website here.