NSW info commissioner calls for cultural shift to open access, not ‘controlling and shielding’

By Stephen Easton

Thursday May 23, 2019

Elizabeth Tydd

Government agencies need to continue working towards a culture of openness, says New South Wales information commissioner Elizabeth Tydd.

“The adoption of an open access and open data culture within government and by agencies requires a cultural shift — from controlling and shielding information to releasing it and allowing
others to use it,” Tydd said yesterday.

The commissioner says this requires a governance framework that is designed to support a genuine commitment to a culture that looks positively on open access and open data.

To facilitate that, the NSW Information and Privacy Commission has launched a couple of new online self-assessment tools to help agencies of the state see how well they meet their twin responsibilities to protect privacy, and provide public access to information.

According to the IPC, the state’s public servants can use them to create “dashboard reports” and “precisely identify areas where improvements are required” to boost their agency’s compliance with the rules, or click through to the commission’s advice.

One such piece of advice is that looking at information governance purely as a compliance issue is not good enough.

The aim of the tools is to make it easier for NSW agencies to “measure the maturity of their information governance systems and implement plans to further develop those systems” but, Tydd points out, senior executives also have a critical role to play.

“Leaders occupy an important role in promoting awareness and fostering an organisational culture that advances sound information governance,” the commissioner said.

“The tools provide dashboard reports to ensure that leaders are able to assess information governance maturity within their organisations and support a commitment to action that will ensure compliance with privacy and information access requirements.”

Her colleague Samantha Gavel, the NSW privacy commissioner, echoed these sentiments.

“Leaders who recognise the importance of good personal information handling in delivering services and building the trust of their customers, and actively encourage staff to embed privacy in their business processes, will make privacy core to the business and not just a compliance issue,” said Gavel.

The self-assessment tools — one for privacy, one for public access to information — are available from the NSW IPC website.

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