FOI Notes: Record-Keeping, Chile, Sri Lanka, Denmark, Commentary, Transparency Research, Algorithms, Open Data, Nepal, US, OGP, India, UK

12 January 2017

Record-Keeping: Leave no trace? How to combat off the record government,” an article by Nuala Haughey describes a workshop on the topic of record-keeping for good governance at the 2016 Open Government Partnership summit.

Chile: The subject of access to information and political parties is addressed in a comprehensive report (in Spanish), “Apertura y Acceso A La InformAción: Una guía para partidos politicos,” published by the Institute of National Democracy.

Sri Lanka: A description of the origins of the Sri Lankan RTI bill by Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena, a senior lawyer who serves on Sri Lanka’s RTI Commission as the nominee of the Editors Guild of Sri Lanka, the Newspaper Publishers Society and the Sri Lanka Press Institute, with its affiliates. The column in Asian Affairs concludes:

But challenges ahead should not be underestimated. Sri Lanka’s political culture has long been to deny information. Its transformation to a new information ethos will be painful. Moreover, the country has a long and sad tradition of theoretically excellent laws that have not been implemented with political vigour. It is to be hoped that the RTI Act, No 12 of 2016 will not fall into that same dispiriting category. Collective political will must be demonstrated in practically implementing the Act, but Sri Lankans, familiar with tales of woe rather than positive advances, may justly be proud of it.

Commentary: In an article in Public Administration Review, Stephen Larrick is Open Data Project lead for the US Sunlight Foundation, recommends:

  1. Advocates should publicize which local governments are currently proactively releasing FOI request and fulfillment data.
  2. Advocates should use openly available local government FOI request and fulfillment data to bolster requests for information by citing prior fulfillment precedents, both from the subject government and from other jurisdictions.
  3. If the local government of interest does not already proactively release FOI request data, then activists should request that they do so through the various feedback channels outlined here.
  4. If existing request mechanisms fail, then practitioners should request FOI request and fulfillment data, pointing to other governments that already publish this information in order to induce a peer network effect in the proactive context.
  5. Advocates should repeat the above process until a critical mass of local governments are all proactively publishing FOI request and fulfillment data such that advocates everywhere will be able to exploit the peer network effect.

Transparency Research: The Research Consortium on the Impact of Open Government has been commissioned a study to determine the financial costs associated with particular open government initiatives, described in a World Bank blog post. Researchers are conducting two ongoing case studies: Ukraine’s Open e-Procurement System, ProZorro, and the Dominican Republic’s 311-type system, EDE Este.

Denmark: An article in Politiko (in Danish) examines the lack of access to official memoes.

Open Data: “There is no shortage of open data. The question is, is anyone using it?,” writes Jonathan Stoneman of Computer Weekly.

Open Data: “What does 2017 hold for open data initiatives?” a question answered by four experts in a Guardian feature.

Nepal: Government office chiefs in Parbat and Myagdi districts sign declarations to implement the right to information.

UK: Leigh Dodds blogs about working the Digital Publishing team at the UK Office of National Statistics on how to better support users in finding and accessing datasets.

United States: A new report on improving declassification procedures in the U.S. intelligence community implicitly suggests that no such improvements are likely to emerge any time soon, reports Stephen Aftergood. The report, published yesterday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in response to congressional direction, is largely devoid of new ideas and instead calls for greater “integration” and “coordination.”

United States: “When trust in our institutions is low, we should …insist on the principles of transparency and ethics in public service.” — President Obama in his Jan 10 farewell address.

United States: Puerto Rico’s new governor has signed an executive order creating a new public affairs and public policy secretary position that will be responsible for drawing up proposed legislation similar to the US FOIA, AP reports.

United States: The number of FOIA cases brought by reporters and news organization has substantially increased during the last four years, according to The FOIA Project.

OGP: An updated OGP database is issued.

Algorithms: “AI’s creepy control must be open to inspection,” according to Luke Dormehl, writing in The Guardian.

India: The Reserve Bank of India continued to fight requests concerning the demonetisation decision, the Wire reports as does The Economic Times.

Transparency Research: “Seeing without knowing: Limitations of the transparency ideal and its application to algorithmic accountability,” an article by Mike Ananny University of Southern California.

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