FOI Notes: Europe, UK, Research, Climate Change, SDGs,Tanzania, Open Data, Panama Papers, Vanuatu, India, Football

17 November 2016

Europe: The UK Campaign for Freedom of Information has published an initial assessment of the implications of the new Strasbourg ruling that Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides a right to official information. (See previous coverage.) Among other comments:

The decision potentially means that public bodies which are not subject to the FOI Act, ranging from GCHQ and the National Crime Agency to electoral registration officers, will be subject to a new disclosure obligation where information is sought for public benefit.

Regarding the affect on the UK law:

The new ruling may thus expose some of the least acceptable provisions of the FOI Act to legal challenge. Progress may be slow, and involve multiple appeals, but the decision promises a significant shake up of key FOI restrictions.

United Kingdom: The government says it is “carefully considering”  resurrecting one of the key recommendations the Independent Commission on Freedom of Information: ending the right to appeal to the First Tier Tribunal against a decision by the Information Commissioner’s Office to block the release of information, the Campaign for Freedom of Information says and the Press Gazette reports.

Transparency Research: “25 Years of Transparency Research: Evidence and Future Directions,” an article in Public Administration Review by Cucciniello, M., Porumbescu, G. A. and Grimmelikhuijsen, S. Abstract:

This article synthesizes the cross-disciplinary literature on government transparency. It systematically reviews research addressing the topic of government transparency published between 1990 and 2015. The review uses 187 studies to address three questions: (1) What forms of transparency has the literature identified? (2) What outcomes does the literature attribute to transparency? and (3) How successful is transparency in achieving those goals? In addressing these questions, the authors review six interrelated types of transparency and nine governance- and citizen-related outcomes of transparency. Based on the findings of the analysis, the authors outline an agenda for future research on government transparency and its effects that calls for more systematically investigating the ways in which contextual conditions shape transparency outcomes, replicating studies with varying methodologies, investigating transparency in neglected countries, and paying greater attention to understudied claims of transparency such as improved decision making and management.

SDG: Shamsul Bari and RuhiNaz (Chairman, Research Initiatives, Bangladesh (RIB) and Project Coordinator (RTI section), RIB, respectively) write about the challenges of measuring the SDG 16.10 on access to information.

Commentary: Brendan Halloran, a senior fellow for Impact and Learning at the International Budget Partnership, asks “what does it mean to `bring politics in’ to open governance discourse and practice?”

Open Data: Martin Tisne of the Omidyar Network writes “From Tech-Driven to Human-Centred: Opengov has a Bright Future Ahead.” Among other observations:

First, the open data sector is starting to focus on understanding who is interested in the information in the first place and honing their data releases to those needs, rather than just blanket releases. Many will see that this as anathema, arguing that users alone are best placed to know what their needs are, and that the only way to get to those users is to let the ‘invisible hand’ of data works its magic. But the reality is that data hasn’t magically found its users.

Panama Papers: After resigning from Panama’s official effort to clean up its financial sector, Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and transparency expert Mark Pieth issue their own independent report.

Canada: “1300 Scientists Say Canada Needs More Transparency About Environmental Risks,” writes Kate Lunau of Motherboard.

Tanzania: Read about the practical problems experienced by a health care NGO, Sikika, in getting access to information about hospital resource needs and actual budgets, an interview in IPPMedia.

United States: “Public contracts shrouded in secrecy,” an article in Reveal by Miranda S. Spivack.

Vanuatu: An RTI bill is among the bills published by the Daily Post, according to an article that describes and criticizes the delay between official introduction and official release of bills.

India: A review of a book on RTI by former information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi and Pralhad Kachare, a bureaucrat who earlier headed RTI cell of Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration (YASHADA) asks for a national colloquium to save the RTI Act.

United Kingdom: Eleven civil society organizations urge the government to open up the Land Registry.

American Football: “It’s becoming increasingly difficult to see clearly through the College Football Playoff Selection Committee’s methodology,” according to Denis Dodd of CBS Sports. “As respected and experienced as the 12-person committee may be, it specializes in secrecy — behind closed doors, curtains drawn. That’s not necessarily bad when you consider the media cottage industry that has grown up around the mystery surrounding the weekly rankings.”

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