The NSW Information Commissioner releases the results of Community Attitudes research and launches a Citizen Checklist in Right to Know Week NSW 2019

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Media release:

The NSW Information Commissioner releases the results of Community Attitudes research and launches a Citizen Checklist in Right to Know Week NSW 2019.

The Information and Privacy Commission’s Right to Know Week NSW 2019: Access to Information: Leaving no one behind in the digital age, runs from 30 September to 6 October was officially launched by the Attorney General, the Hon. Mark Speakman SC MP. The campaign aims to raise awareness of each individual’s right of access to government information and promote open, transparent government. 

The NSW Information Commissioner Elizabeth Tydd said: “This year, our theme: Access to Information: Leaving no one behind in the digital age, focuses on the ways accessing government information has not only changed, but become more efficient with the introduction of better digital technologies.  Technology is being increasingly deployed to deliver services more effectively, inform planning and make government decisions ranging from subsidies to road safety. Significant public benefits flow but the fundamental rights of citizens can also be impacted.

“Technology also has the potential to offend rights, exacerbate inequality and increase corruption. Technology cannot intrinsically reflect our established rights. The solution to this challenge lies in identifying the overarching public interest to be served by these new digital solutions. Government agencies must actively design, test, implement and deliver technology and AI in a manner that reflects rights, ethics and intended purposes. 

“It is essential that NSW government agencies ensure that citizens have access to information that impacts their rights and government decision making broadly. Building information access into digital solutions and in contracts with digital service providers will ensure that the publics’ right to know is guaranteed in the digital environment.”  

Community attitudes to information access

The NSW Information Commissioner released the results of the NSW Community Attitudes research to Government Information and launches a Citizen Checklist in Right to Know Week NSW 2019.

Citizens were surveyed to gauge the value that they place on the right to access information and assess their experience in exercising that fundamental right. The key findings include:

  • 89% of respondents’ confirmed the importance of the right to access government information.
  • Over three quarters of respondents were aware that they had the right to access information from at least one of the agencies under NSW Access to Information law.
  • Respondents were most aware that they could access information held by state (57%) and local government (53%). Citizens are exercising their right to access information with four out of ten respondents reporting that they contacted at least one agency to obtain information in the last three years. Importantly the results this year demonstrated that younger people are increasingly exercising their right to access information (61% of 18-34 year olds) (48% in 2016).
  • Over three quarters of respondents were successful in accessing information from at least one agency.
    • 88% gained full access from state owned corporations,
    • 80% from state government and
    • 74% from local councils.
  • Of those who tried to access information, 60% stated that the agencies were helpful in providing advice and assistance. Only 13% thought they weren’t helpful.
  • Significantly, respondents placed great importance on the public interest factors agencies should consider when releasing government information.

“People’s view of the importance of the right to access information remains consistently high and over three quarters of respondents were aware of their information access rights. Importantly, younger people are increasingly exercising their right to obtain information from government agencies. Governments are increasingly providing services and making decisions using technology. To build trust and ensure that no one is left behind governments must also respond to growing citizen expectations and awareness of their right to access information in this digital environment,” said Ms Tydd.

Aide to achieve successful outcomes from information access applications

The NSW Information Commissioner Elizabeth Tydd has also released a checklist for citizens, Tips for framing your information access application, as a part of Right to Know Week NSW 2019.

The checklist includes key information that is often overlooked by applicants and can potentially cause their application to be rejected specifically due to an unreasonable and substantial diversion of resources for the agency. This cause has been identified by the IPC as one of the main reasons information access applications are rejected.

“Aside from including all the data that makes a claim valid, agencies can refuse to undertake searches for information and refuse to deal with an access application if dealing with the application would require an unreasonable and substantial diversion of agency resources. This is a significant curtailment of information access rights and it can only be relied upon if certain conditions are met.

“While following this checklist will assist citizens to lodge an application which provides specific details about the information sought  and  for example providing  the reasons why the information is important to the applicant,  it is also the responsibility of the agency to give the applicant a reasonable opportunity and assistance with amending the application,” said Ms Tydd.

The checklist is available for citizens to download for free from https://www.ipc.nsw.gov.au/checklist-tips-framing-your-information-access-application

ENDS

For further information, please contact:

IPC media team on 0435 961 691 or email ccadigital@ipc.nsw.gov.au

About the Information and Privacy Commission:
The Information and Privacy Commission NSW (IPC) is an independent statutory authority that administers New South Wales’ legislation dealing with privacy and access to government information. The IPC supports the Information Commissioner and the Privacy Commissioner in fulfilling their legislative responsibilities and functions and to ensure individuals and agencies can access consistent information, guidance and coordinated training about information access and privacy matters.

About the NSW Information Commissioner 
The NSW Information Commissioner’s statutory role includes promoting public awareness and understanding of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act); providing information, advice, assistance and training to agencies and the public; dealing with complaints about agencies; investigating agencies’ systems, policies and practices; and reporting on compliance with the GIPA Act.

For further information about the IPC visit our website at www.ipc.nsw.gov.au

 

➡️ Visit the Right to Know Week NSW 2019 Website here