Authorised proactive release of government information

Authorised proactive release of government information (PDF, 89kb)

The Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act) authorises agencies to release information through proactive release programs which must be reviewed each year, and outcomes reported to the Information and Privacy Commission NSW (IPC).

This fact sheet provides preliminary guidance and a self-assessment tool to assist public sector agencies in developing their approach to authorised proactive release and promoting open government.

A key intention of the GIPA Act is to encourage a fundamental shift toward proactive public release of government information by NSW public sector agencies. This shift of focus is one of the major means to meeting the GIPA Act’s broader goal of advancing democratic government that is open, accountable, fair and effective. The GIPA Act authorises agencies to have proactive release programs in place and requires these to be reviewed each year, with outcomes reported to the IPC.

This fact sheet:

  • describes what authorised proactive release is
  • explains the rationale and benefits of proactive release
  • identifies some emerging good practices in proactive release, and
  • suggests a set of questions that agencies can apply to ensure their program for the authorised proactive release of information meets both the letter and spirit of the GIPA Act.

The self-assessment questions attached to the fact sheet will assist agencies in meeting legislative requirements and achieving the intent of the GIPA Act.

What is authorised proactive release?

Section 7 of the GIPA Act authorises and encourages agencies to make any government information held by an agency publicly available unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure. [i] This may include any government information or datasets that are compiled, recorded or stored in printed or electronic form. [ii]

Further information about what a proactive release program is and how agencies should review and report on the information released proactively can be found in the Agency guide on GIPA reporting [iii], available on the IPC website.

Why should agencies proactively release information?

The GIPA Act imposes specific requirements on agencies to proactively release information and also provides pathways to informally release information to promote open government.

Research from Australia and internationally has identified that this shift toward proactive release can challenge organisational assumptions, cultures and practices. [iv]

There are a number of benefits that, over time, will flow from effective proactive release, such as:

  • improved service delivery – by increasing agency efficiency and responsiveness; providing information to the community faster leading to greater customer satisfaction
  • increased community participation in government processes and decision-making – by enabling active participation in government decision making, design and delivery of government services; promoting government accountability
  • better informed community – raising community awareness of governments’ strategic intentions and initiatives; driving innovation, improving standards
  • reduced costs and resourcing needs by decreasing the number of access applications – by reducing administrative effort and costs for the agency and the community; facilitating planned release of information; providing flexibility in the manner in which agencies can release information and context on the use and interpretation of the released information.

Emerging good practices

Proactive release of information is a relatively new part of public sector delivery and practices are evolving. Agencies have published information, such as annual reports, strategic plans, guides and policy document, on the NSW OpenGov website. [v]

The IPC has identified some key good practices to promote proactive release including:

  • encourage a corporate culture of transparency and accountability (e.g. through a code of conduct or mission statement)
  • establish clear governance arrangements to manage the proactive release of documents (e.g. establish a working group; include proactive release as a standard agenda item in senior management meetings; place responsibility for proactive release in specific roles including risk management and audit functions)
  • incorporate proactive release as part of records management and business systems
  • consider, from creation , whether documents should be proactively released
  • engaging with  stakeholders to establish information release priorities (e.g. through community surveys, workshops and consultation processes)
  • analyse data collected from across the organisation on requests for information, to identify trends and documents that could be released proactively.

Acknowledgements and Resources

The IPC would like to thank the Office of Finance and Services for the NSW Open Data Policy [vi] and the NSW Data and Information Custodianship Policy [vii], which the IPC has drawn on for this fact sheet.

For more information

Contact the Information and Privacy Commission
NSW (IPC):

Freecall:           1800 472 679
Email:              ipcinfo@ipc.nsw.gov.au
Website:          www.ipc.nsw.gov.au

NOTE: The information in this fact sheet is to be used as a guide only. Legal advice should be sought in relation to individual circumstances.

Footnotes

[i] Section 4 of the GIPA Act defines “government information” as information contained in a record held by an agency. Clause 10, Schedule 4 of the GIPA Act defines “record” as any document or other source of information compiled, recorded or stored in written form or by electronic process, or in any other manner or by any other means. A record includes a copy of the record. The knowledge of a person is not a record.

[ii] This fact sheet adopts the definition of datasets as set out in the NSW Government Open Data Policy.

[iv] The following reports and articles are provided as examples – Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (2012), Open public sector information: from principles to practice (http://www.oaic.gov.au/information-policy/information-policy-resources/information-policy-reports/open-public-sector-information-from-principles-to-practice); New Zealand Law Reform Commission (2012), The Public’s Right to Know, Review of the Official Information Legislation (http://r125.publications.lawcom.govt.nz/uploads/files/downloads/NZLC-R125-June-2012.pdf); Tod Newcombe (2014), How Government Can Unlock Economic Benefits from Open Data (http://www.govtech.com/data/How-Government-Can-Unlock-Economic-Benefits-from-Open-Data-Part-I.html); Tod Newcombe (2014), How Government Can Unlock Economic Benefits from Open Data: Part II (http://www.govtech.com/data/How-to-Unlock-Economic-Benefits-from-Open-Data-Part-II.html?utm_source=related&utm_medium=direct&utm_campaign=How-to-Unlock-Economic-Benefits-from-Open-Data-Part-II);

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