Statement by the NSW Information Commissioner and Open Data Advocate on Information Access, Data Sharing and the COVID-19 Pandemic

 

Statement by the NSW Information Commissioner and Open Data Advocate on Information Access, Data Sharing and the COVID-19 Pandemic

The right to access information is a fundamental human right that ensures the transparency of government action and promotes trust between the public and elected government. Trust and transparency are particularly important as the New South Wales (NSW) Government introduces measures to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is strong public interest in the release of information that explains policies and practices for dealing with members of the public and in the release of information that will contribute to a positive and informed debate on this issue of immense public importance.

The NSW Information Commissioner independently oversees the right to access information provided to all NSW citizens under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA).

The statutory responsibilities of agencies to uphold the general principles of open government information are highlighted in section 5 of the GIPA Act, which provides:

“There is a presumption in favour of the disclosure of government information unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure.”

Open Data is a central element of the GIPA Act. Open data is data that does not contain personal or other sensitive information and is made freely available at the lowest reasonable cost.  The contribution Open Data can make to helping agencies, governments and the community deal with the COVID-19 pandemic are clear.

In May 2019 the Information Commissioner issued a Guideline on Open Data.  The Guideline identified that open data can benefit the community in four ways:

  • Improving government by bringing more minds to focus on an issue
  • Empowering citizens to offer fresh insights and analysis
  • Creating opportunities for innovation
  • Solving complex problems

This Guideline applies to NSW agencies including government departments, local councils, universities, state-owned corporations and ministerial offices and supports them in dealing correctly with data and government information more broadly.

ENDS

For further information, please contact:

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

About the Information Commissioner:

The NSW Information Commissioner is an independent office holder reporting directly to the NSW Parliament. 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

The current Information Commissioner was appointed as Open Data Advocate in April 2016 and provides advice to the Data Analytics Centre (DAC) and across the NSW Government on non-personal data that should be released to the public

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.

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