FOI Notes: Commentary, Research, Corporate Transparency, More

18 December 2014

Commentary: Maureen Kariuki, the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Civil Society Coordinator for Africa and the Middle East, writes about the using the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and the OGP to push access to information reforms.

OGP: The OGP issues its research agenda, described in a blog post.

Corporate Transparency: The topic is addressed in an article in The Economist titled The openness revolution: As multinationals are forced to reveal more about themselves, where should the limits of transparency lie?”

Mexico: A study, Metrics Transparency in Mexico, examines nation and state government websites, finding uneven quality.

Aid Transparency: Publish What You Fund looks at data quality in the Aid Transparency Index.

Transparency Research:Measuring Transparency,” in the journal Political Analysis uses the World Bank’s World Development Indicators (WDIs) as a measure of governments’ efforts to collect and disseminate data. The authors are James Hollyer, Peter Rosendorff and James Vreeland, from the University of Minnesota, New York University, and Georgetown respectively. The article is described in this article done by Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, the Journalist’s Resource project.

Transparency is often viewed as crucial to government accountability, but its measurement remains elusive. This concept encompasses many dimensions, which have distinct effects. In this article, we focus on a specific dimension of transparency: governments’ collection and dissemination of aggregate data. We construct a measure of this aspect of transparency, using an item response model that treats transparency as a latent predictor of the reporting of data to the World Bank’s World Development Indicators. The resultant index covers 125 countries from 1980 to 2010. Unlike some alternatives (e.g., Freedom House), our measure—the HRV index—is based on objective criteria rather than subjective expert judgments. Unlike newspaper circulation numbers, HRV reflects the dissemination of credible content—in that it has survived the World Bank’s quality control assessment. In a validation exercise, we find that our measure outperforms newspaper circulation as a predictor of Law and Order and Bureaucratic Quality as measured by the ICRG, particularly in autocracies. It performs as well as newspaper circulation in predicting corruption. These findings suggest that data dissemination is a distinct, and politically relevant, form of transparency.

Open Data: A blog post entitled “New surveys reveal dynamism, challenges of open data-driven businesses in developing countries,” describes the early results of a study.

Canada: Full freedom of information disclosures at the Department of Human Services have halved over the past three years, according to research released by the Australian Information Commissioner John McMillan.

Brazil: Article 19 issues a report (in Portuguese) discussing transparency problems concerning the water supply to São Paulo.

United States: Government agencies released 58 DATA Act data elements on their Federal Spending Transparency github site. These 58 data elements make up the core of information that will be standardized and published under the DATA Act.

United States: Private prisons are exempt from FOIA a Marsall Project report explains.

United Kingdom: A timeline of notable FOI events done by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Bulgaria: The government cut from $19,000 to $67 the fee for obtaining the entire database of the companies listed in the Commercial Register, the government information service announced. “The significant reduction in the fee aims to improve the accessibility of services to a larger number of users, which will help the business environment and will lead to greater security in civil turnover. And these changes will also help to fulfill our commitments under the initiative Open Government Partnership.”

India: “Evolution of Right to Information in India; It’s Problems and Challenges in Implementation,” an article by Ceejun Chandran in the International Journal of Research.

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