FOI Notes: Open Data, Open Contracting, UK, EU, Spain, Cambodia, Myanmar, New Zealand, OGP, Australia, Survey, India, Pakistan, Japan, US

15 December 2015

Open Data: The third annual Global Open Data Index shows “impressive gains from non-OECD countries with Taiwan topping the Index and Colombia and Uruguay breaking into the top ten at four and seven respectively.” Overall, the Index evaluated 122 places and 1,586 datasets and determined that only 9%, or 156 datasets, were both technically and legally open. The Index ranks countries based on the availability and accessibility of data in thirteen key categories, a list expanded this year to include public procurement data, water quality data, land ownership data and weather data. See variety of posts on the index at the Open Knowledge Foundation blog.

Open Contracting: Georg Neumann from Open Contracting comments on the Global Open Data Index. “Government contracts are a long way from being open.,” he writes. “Less than 10% of the countries surveyed provide timely, machine-readable and openly licensed data on tenders and awards of government contracts.” However, he continues, “We can see a trend towards publishing more data and doing so in an open format.”

Open Government Guide: An assessment survey (Spanish survey) is under way about the guide (Spanish version here) is a resource for governments and civil society working to improve transparency, accountability and participation in their countries, especially in relation to the OGP National Action Plan process. It was recently re-launched at the Mexico OGP Summit with updated material and a special edition on the links between open government and the Sustainable Development Goals. Deadline is Dec. 15.

UK: The commission examining the FOI law posts online the many responses to its request for evidence. The changes under consideration will take Britain back to the “dark ages” and risk undermining democracy, UK Information Commissioner Christopher Graham says, The Telegraph reports.

OGP: A tool is developed for civil society in OGP countries to assess how open and ambitious their governments were in developing their National Action Plans. Blog posts by Tim Hughes introduce the tool and share the results from the latest round of pilots. Seven countries were assessed: Argentina, Colombia, Finland, France, Hungary, Israel and Liberia.

OGP: “OGP needs a reboot” writes Steven Adler, the Chief Data Strategist at IBM, Among other things, he advocates for open OGP Steering Committee meetings. OGP’s Acting Director Joe Powell replies.

European Union: European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has invited feedback from individuals, NGOs, business associations and other organizations on the transparency of “trilogues,” the informal negotiations between the Parliament, the Council and the Commission aimed at reaching agreements on new EU legislation. The Parliament, Council and Commission have each submitted their opinions on the transparency of trilogies, responding to an earlier O’Reilly request. The public consultation can be found here. The deadline for submitting comments is March 31, 2016.

Spain: Access Info Europe and Civio announce the closure of the independent request website “Tu Derecho a Saber” (Your Right to Know) because the new Spanish law requires requesters to use an electronic ID.

Canada: The Information Commissioner issues her annual report summarizing “a year of significant advances in access in 2014-2015 but, equally, of significant regressions.” A Toronto Star editorial highlights s a 49-per-cent jump in Cabinet confidentiality claims over the previous year.

Japan: “State secrets law still deeply flawed” – A Japan Times editorial.Nearly a year after it entered into force on Dec. 10, 2014, the problems of the state secrets law remain unaddressed, including the opaque aspects of its implementation.”

Cambodia: “Rights and development groups say a draft law on access to information will be more useful to the public if it has input from outside the government,” according to a Voice of American report.

Myanmar: An article on the state of access to information by Southeast Asian Press Alliance. It says: “The introduction of FOI legislation in national parliaments is still in infancy. However, there is a growing number of intitiatives to practice freedom of information in Burma these days. Besides, the country’s present social and political circumstances reveal the urgent need for laws in the country enacted and exercised to guarantee FOI.

New Zealand: A review of the Official Information Act has found no direct evidence of “political censorship” though some ministerial officials tried to limit the release of information “for unwarranted reasons,” according to Chief Ombudsman Beverley Wakem, in her report “Not a Game of Hide and Seek.”

Australia: The government issues a report on 2014–15 freedom of information statistics

Spain: Access Info Europe has been granted access to Spanish government progress reports on Open Government Partnership (OGP) commitments, the group announces.

United States: “FOIA Advisory Committee To Act on Inadequate OMB Fee Guidance,”reports Lauren Harper in her weekly Unredacted column on US FOI developments.

Pakistan: “We support open government not just because it is good for business but because is central to human rights and dignity” concluded a leading member of the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry at the recent OGP meeting of around 30 of Pakistan’s leading advocates for open government, according to a blog post by Blair Glencorse and Fayyaz Yaseen of the Accountability Lab and Hammad Siddiqui, Deputy Country Director for the Center for International Private Enterprise.

India: The RTI Act “is being used by some residents of Uttar Pradesh to meet a different goal: settling family disputes,” writes Neha Shukla in The Times of India.

India: Madabhushi Sridhar writes a commentary in The Hans India on the use of the RTI act to redress grievances. “In the absence of assured right to petition or services, the RTI became only resort to seek services and compensation for the lack of access to services,” Sridhar says.


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