Open Government, Open Data & Public Participation

Open Government embodies a collective right, a right enjoyed for the benefit of communities. This right provides the foundation upon which we as a fair and open society effectively uphold and actively participate in our system of democracy.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) describes Open Government as: The transparency of government actions, the accessibility of government services and information, and the responsiveness of government to new ideas, demands and needs’. Australia’s commitment to open government is described as being built upon three key principles: strengthening access to information, collaborating with citizens on policy and service delivery, and making government more consultative and participative (OECD).

Open Government and the GIPA Act

Achieving Open Government requires legislation to enshrine a citizen's right to access information and authorise decision-makers to release information. Citizens expect government decision-making to be open, transparent and accountable and the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act) represents NSW Parliament’s commitment to realising that expectation.

The object of the GIPA Act is to open government information to the public in order to “… maintain and advance a system of responsible and representative democratic Government that is open, accountable, fair and effective”.

The three fundamental elements of Open Government enshrined under the GIPA Act are:

  • a legislated right to access information proactively and reactively
  • the right to hold government to account and to expect transparency
  • public participation by citizens in government decision-making.

In 2017, the NSW Information Commissioner released the Report on the Operation of the Government Information (Public Access) Act (2009) for 2015-16. The theme of this report is: “Open Government, Open Access, Open Data”.

An extract from the Report has been developed in video format. Click here to view the videographic: The GIPA Act and Open Data (mp4, 8MB).

Charter for Public Participation

The Charter for Public Participation is a critical tool to support agencies in realising the benefits of Open Government and the GIPA Act.

It provides a practical road map for embedding the functions of the GIPA Act into everyday government agency activities – practical information, steps, tools and case studies for agencies across the NSW Public Sector to achieve meaningful engagement with citizens.

The release of the Charter for Public Participation followed extensive consultation with government agencies, the public and the International Association for Public Participation (IAPP) and delivered on the commitment made in May 2017 by the Information Commissioner to provide a Charter for Public Participation to foster citizen-centric engagement across the public sector. It supports the sectors' commitment to Open Government and efforts to contribute to Australia’s commitment under the Open Government Partnership to enhance public participation in government decision making.

Click here to read the IPC's Report: Towards a NSW Charter for Public Participation.

Commitment to Open Government in NSW

A key priority of the NSW Digital Strategy is a commitment to Open Government. The Strategy outlines how data is open, collected and shared in a digital format wherever possible. Agencies need to open their data in a format that can be readily used. Data will be made available to the people of NSW, while respecting the privacy and confidentiality of those to whom the data relates. As the digital economy continues to grow in NSW, the government is opening up the data it holds for use and application by industry, the community and research sector in line with exclusionary and de-identification guidelines.

Open Government and Open Data

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 that is available improves transparency and accountability within government, supports evidence-based policy development and provides a platform for innovation. 

With the launch of the NSW Open Data Policy in April 2016, the NSW Government appointed the Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Tydd as NSW Open Data Advocate. The Open Data Advocate plays a key role in ensuring that the NSW Open Data Policy is successfully implemented.

As Open Data Advocate, the Information Commissioner encourages the proactive public release of government information by agencies in ways that are respectful of data sharing safeguards, as well as providing information, advice and assistance to agencies and members of the public on access to government information.

Click here to view the Open Data: Opening our World infographic featuring case studies and examples of how Open Data has been used to enhance the way we live and work.

Click here to view 'Conditions Enabling Open Data and Promoting a Data Sharing Culture 2017', a research report commissioned by the Information and Privacy Commission NSW.

Open Government Partnership and National Action Plan

The multilateral Open Government Partnership (OGP) was created to secure commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness technologies to strengthen governance. Australia is one of more than 70 countries participating in the OGP today.

National Action Plan

Open Government Partnership logo

On 7 December 2016, the Australian Government announced the finalisation of Australia’s first Open Government National Action Plan 2016-2018 containing 15 ambitious commitments focused on transparency and accountability in business; open data and digital transformation; access to government information; integrity in the public sector; and public participation and engagement. State and Territory Information Access Commissioners and Ombudsmen, led by NSW, contributed to the development of the Plan through the inclusion of Commitment 3.2 on information access rights utilisation.

On 21 September 2018, Australia's second Open Government National Action Plan 2018-2020 was released by the Australian Government. The 2018-2020 Plan has been informed by an extensive five-stage consultation process involving both the Australian community and representatives from the Australian Government. Altogether, more than 100 comments and submissions were received from the Australian community which helped to shape and deliver the eight targeted commitments in this new Plan which include:

  • Strengthen the national anti-corruption framework
  • Enhance the transparency of political donations and funding
  • Improve the sharing, use and reuse of public-sector data
  • Improve public service practices using place-based approaches
  • Enhance state and territory participation in the Open Government Partnership
  • Enhance public engagement skills in the public service
  • Engage Australians in the Independent Review of the Australian Public Service
  • Expand open contracting and due diligence in procurement. 
Inaugural dashboard and metrics on the public's use of FOI laws

Australian Information Access Commissioners and Ombudsmen have released the inaugural dashboard of metrics on public use of freedom of information (FOI) access rights. The metrics are the first of their kind and will enable the community to examine the performance of their local FOI laws and to advocate accordingly, as well as improving community understanding of how FOI laws work and how to access them.

Information about the metrics, the inaugural dashboard and how they were developed is available here. 


OpenGov.nsw provides a source of information which is published by NSW Government agencies, including Annual Reports and open access information released under the GIPA Act.