International Access to Information Day
Every year on the 28th of September, we celebrate International Access to Information Day (IAID). This day celebrates the importance of equal and universal access to information, particularly through right to information laws.
The right to access information is recognised by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), which state:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
This right to receive information and ideas is enshrined in Australian law through information access legislation – for example, WA’s Freedom of Information Act 1992, which creates a “general right of access to State and local government documents”.
IAID was formally recognized by the UNESCO General Conference in 2015, first officially held in 2016, and proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in October 2019. It is now celebrated in at least 26 countries, and is also known as “International Day for Universal Access to Information” or “Right to Know” day.
International Access to Information Day 2022
This year’s UNESCO theme for IAID is “Artificial intelligence, e-governance and access to information”. UNESCO highlights that e-governance and artificial intelligence (AI) should be configured in such a way as to build trust, ensure inclusion, protect human rights and assure the participation of citizens. This will not be possible unless citizens have free and open access to the internet, content provided in their language and the skills to use the provided services. E-governance and AI have benefits, but they also have risks to be managed according to best practice.
This year, UNESCO is also undertaking a review of its Policy Guidelines for the Development and Promotion of Governmental Public Domain Information, with the new guidelines set to be released on IAID.
Message from the Commissioner
The 2022 UNESCO theme for International Access to Information Day is “Artificial Intelligence, e-Governance and Access to Information”. It invites us all to consider the role of digital technology in the creation and sharing of government-held information and what that means for government transparency. Whilst technology enables the creation, collection and dissemination of information far more easily than previously possible, it is important to recognize that there are also risks associated with the collection and use of large volumes of digital information. In order to be trusted, digital government information should be appropriate and respect privacy, be accessible and available at low cost, and be of value to the community.
In 2023, my office will celebrate 30 years of operation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI Act) in Western Australia. The challenges and opportunities associated with access to government-held information over the last 30 years have been transformed by the application of digital technology. That transformation must also be consistent with the democratic imperative of open and accountable government.
In May 2022, my office released a draft publication, Open by Design – the FOI Act and Information Access in WA that encourages a considered, designed approach to government information release that also promotes greater openness and accountability of government. A final version of that publication will be released on 28 September 2022.
I encourage agencies to refer to that publication when considering how technology can facilitate information release in line with Open by Design principles so as to further support government transparency and accountability.
While challenges certainly lay ahead, embracing the opportunities offered by e-governance can enable government agencies to better improve governance, service provision and democratic participation for all.
Media Statement: Information Commissioners and Ombudsmen hail importance of enabling digital access
Australian Information Commissioners and Ombudsmen have released a joint statement to mark IAID 2022. The statement can be accessed here (PDF, 320KB).
New Publication: Open by Design – FOI and Information Release in WA
As part of our IAID celebrations, we are pleased to launch our new publication Open by Design - FOI and Information Release in WA. This aims to assist agencies with developing appropriate policies and processes on the pro-active disclosure of information.
IAID event from OIC WA: Open Government - Open Data in Practice
Wednesday the 28th of September at 2pm (AWST)
For this event, the Information Commissioner Catherine Fletcher will join Helen Ensikat, Manager Biodiversity Information Office, Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) to discuss the progress of open data in WA.
Helen was involved in the drafting of the State’s first whole-of-government Open Data Policy and establishment of data.wa.gov.au. She moved to Data Analytics and Service Redesign at Treasury to work on data policy, before heading to DBCA to establish the new Biodiversity Information Office.
This event will be held via Zoom. All are welcome to attend.
We encourage you to share this event with your networks and anyone you feel may be interested in this increasingly important topic.
Register here for Open Government - Open Data in Practice
IAID events from across Australia
Monday 26 September
(8-9am Perth time)
Launch of IAID 2022 – Public Access Deputy Commissioner’s Address (online)
Hear OVIC's Public Access Deputy Commissioner, Joanne Kummrow, Professor Kimberlee Weatherall from ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society and Ella McPherson from the Victorian Public Sector Commission talk about the importance of access to information, the role of the Victorian public sector in upholding the public’s right to access information, and the impacts of technology on Victoria’s information access system.
Click here to register
Tuesday 27 September
(12-12:45pm Perth time)
Lightning Talk: OVIC’s role in promoting information access through the FOI Act (online)
In the first Lightning Talk for International Access to Information Day (IAID) 2022, OVIC’s Public Access Team will provide an overview of our FOI review and complaint functions, informal resolution processes, and the use of preliminary views. We will explain what happens after OVIC makes a decision and discuss OVIC’s role in monitoring compliance with the FOI Act and the Professional Standards.
This session is designed for those who wish to better understand OVIC’s role in promoting information access and the range of resources available to FOI practitioners and members of the public. There will be time for questions at the end of the session.
Click here to register
Wednesday 28 September (International Access to Information Day)
(10:30-11:30am Perth time)
Panel discussion: enhancing access to information through smart defaults (online)
The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) aims to extend as far as possible the right of the community to access information held by government agencies. Access to information promotes transparency and accountability and helps build public trust in government. While the FOI Act provides a formal mechanism for accessing government-held information, it also facilitates the proactive and informal release of information. Not all FOI requests need to be processed under the Act.
Panelists will discuss their approaches to designing and implementing smart defaults within their organisations to enhance access to information and develop good practice among staff.
Click here to register
(8:30-10am Perth time)
Solomon Lecture: The importance of truth through Aboriginal eyes (in-person and online)
The Solomon Lecture is one of the signature events of the OIC Queensland. The 2022 Solomon lecture will be delivered by Ian Hamm, Chair of the Historical Records Taskforce with the Healing Foundation.
Ian’s keynote lecture ‘The importance of truth through Aboriginal eyes’ highlights the role that access to information plays in decision-making, truth telling and building trust and transparency in government and society.
The importance of information has never been greater and universally it is interpreted as the transparency and accountability of government. This is incredibly important given the amount of information and data that exists and continues to expand in the modern world. But what information matters, beyond the accepted situation, to Aboriginal people? What is the information unknown that Aboriginal people want to hear and need heard? In this talk, Ian will look information through the eyes of the Aboriginal community at a macro and micro level. He will discuss truth telling and its implications for Australia as a nation and what benefits it brings us all (macro), and also discuss the importance of knowing your own story through the eyes of the stolen children (micro) in trying to make sense of your life.
Journalist Rhianna Patrick will lead a panel discussion following the Solomon Lecture, which will also feature Rose Barrowcliffe (First Nations Archives Advisor, Queensland State Archives) and Patricia Thompson AM (CEO of Link-Up Queensland).
Also speaking will be Queensland Information Commissioner, Rachael Rangihaeata.
Click here to register
(3:00pm-4:30pm Perth time)
UNESCO event: The role of e-Governance & Artificial Intelligence in promoting inclusive approaches for Access to Information
This event is part of the UNESCO Global Conference on Universal Access to information in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. It will discuss:
- What is the role of e-Governance and artificial intelligence in ensuring the right to information on an equal basis?
- What legal provisions are to be made to assure that women can fully take advantage of e-Governance services when accessing public information?
- How can Artificial Intelligence be used as an empowering tool for persons with disability to access public information?
- How can citizens' rights be guaranteed when e-governance services are outsourced?
The UNESCO event page can be found here
Thursday 29 September
(12-12:45pm Perth time)
Lightning Talk: Lost in the Loop: The Limits of a ‘human in the loop’ for AI Governance (online)
In our second virtual lightning talk for International Access to Information Day (IAID) 2022, Jake Goldenfein, Senior Lecturer at Melbourne Law School, will present Lost in the Loop: The Limits of a ‘human in the loop’ for AI Governance.
As data-driven decision systems proliferate, the ‘human-in-the-loop’ has become a central tool in technology regulation. A growing body of literature, however, has begun to challenge the utility of human oversight for automated decisions. In the context of machine learning assisted (i.e. hybrid) decisions, there is almost no empirical evidence suggesting that a human in the loop improves decision quality. So why do policy makers insist on it as a governance tool?
Click here to register
Other resources for IAID 2022
Office of the Australian Information Commissioner – International Access to Information Day
Information and Privacy Commission New South Wales – Right to Know Week NSW 2022
Office of the Information Commissioner Queensland – International Access to Information Day 2022
Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner – International Access to Information Day
UNESCO – International Day for Universal Access to Information
Previous IAID Celebrations at the OIC WA