Dashboard and metrics on the public's use of FOI laws
In 2017, Australian Information Access Commissioners and Ombudsmen 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.
The metrics reflect the currently available data that is reasonably comparable across jurisdictions and the priorities agreed in Australia’s first Open Government National Action Plan 2016-2018, to develop uniform metrics on public use of FOI access rights (Commitment 3.2) to promote the importance of better measuring and improving our understanding of the public’s use of rights under freedom of information laws.
The dashboard covers data from 2014/15 to 2020/21, including:
- count of formal applications by type of applicant
- formal applications received per capita
- percentage of decisions on formal applications where access was granted in full or part
- percentage of all decisions made on formal applications where access was refused in full
- percentage of all decisions made within the statutory time-frames
- percentage of applications received which are reviewed by the jurisdiction’s Information Commissioner/Ombudsman.
With regard to Metrics 3 and 4, for 2017/18 metrics, the NT sought more detailed information from agencies to more accurately reflect the national counting rules. This resulted in the exclusion of certain types of application from the count. Backdating is not practically achievable for prior years, so the figures for prior years are not comparable with later year figures.
(Applications excluded from the count from 2017/18 include Additional information to render application valid sought but not provided, Information does not exist or cannot be located, Required fee not paid, Information not within scope of Act, Unreasonable interference with operations.)
About the development of the dashboard and FOI metrics
On 7 December 2016, the Australian Government announced the finalisation of Australia’s first Open Government National Action Plan 2016-2018 (NAP). This included a commitment to develop uniform metrics on public use of freedom of information (FOI) access rights (Commitment 3.2) to promote the importance of better measuring and improving our understanding of the public’s use of rights under freedom of information laws.
The Information and Privacy Commission (IPC) has led the development of the metrics on behalf of, and with the involvement of the Commonwealth, state and territory Information Access Commissioners and Ombudsmen within the remit of their jurisdictions (the Australian Association of Information Access Commissioners – AIAC).
There has also been broad consultation with civil society representatives and the general public. Generally, respondents were supportive of the metrics with suggested additional metrics such as applicant satisfaction with redaction, fees and charges, withdrawal rates and reasons for refusal. A description of the metrics and summary of the consultation feedback has also been published and this feedback is being considered in the further development of the metrics.
Some jurisdictions have moved from a reactive or “pull model” of information release to a proactive or “push model”. The push model requires agencies to proactively push information out to the community, as much as possible, with the goal of making formal applications a last resort. This difference may be reflected in the national data set dashboard.
The dashboard will be updated each year once all jurisdiction data has been reported.