OAIC report: Open public sector information: from principles to practice

From the OAIC:  The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has launched a new report that examines how Australian Government agencies manage public sector information.  The report, entitled Open public sector information: from principles to practice discusses the challenges and practical obstacles that agencies face in embracing an open data, proactive disclosure approach.

The Australian Information Commissioner, Professor John McMillan stated that the report identifies three major challengies that Government agencies face in managing public sector information:

The first is to make agency data more discoverable and useable. For many this was a technical challenge, notably to conform to WCAG 2.0, especially in electronically publishing in an accessible format legacy documents that are held only in paper form. Attaching metadata to documents to make them discoverable through search engines is another challenge. Nearly half the agencies that addressed this issue said that they do not routinely apply metadata to published documents, and that many agency staff do not understand the importance of doing so. The need to upload data manually to the data.gov portal was another practical hurdle.

The second major challenge is to move within the agency to a default position that agency information should be open to public access via the web. This is likely to occur only if the agency leaders convey a clear message that this is agency policy. The ramifications of a default open access policy also need to be understood by agency staff. When creating new documents – agency policies, training manuals, program guidelines, policy reviews, meeting minutes – staff should instinctively turn their mind to whether the documents can be made publicly available on the web.

Publication of agency information on open access licensing terms is another key element of an open access policy. Although government intellectual property guidelines declare this to be the default position, the declaration could be stated in less equivocal terms and with a better explanation of how to implement open licensing. A majority of agencies report that that they have not yet adopted the Creative Commons CC BY standard as their default.

The third major challenge is to implement information management practices that support an open data culture. Greater commitment is required of agencies to store and register data in a way that makes it readily publishable, to enter all agency information on an information asset register so that there is greater internal awareness of this valuable asset, to establish information governance arrangements that include senior level supervision of information management, and through training to bring about greater staff awareness of this new open government environment.

The full text of the report is available here.  The Commissioner’s full remarks in launching the report can be found here.

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