On 28 September we celebrate the International Day for Universal Access to Information. More commonly known as “Right To Know Day”, it emphasises the community’s right to access government-held information and reinforces the role of government in promoting openness, transparency and accountability.
Openness underpins trusted and meaningful engagement between citizens and government. In a democracy, it is essential that people can access a wide range of information in order to participate in a real and effective way in the matters that affect them.
Although this day has been recognised since 2002, advocates and experts note that information transparency and open governance are still far from business-as-usual.
The challenge for openness in the digital era
In the digital environment, openness has become a wider imperative.
Data and information are now at the centre of everything; how we live, work and play. Everyone has become accustomed to accessing information on any topic, online, on demand and this is changing public expectations. People are demanding greater transparency – not only from government but also companies, NGOs and the media.
Organisations across all sectors want to extract greater value from the information they hold and are considering novel ways to use it. Individuals are more aware of the value and risks around their personal information. They want more control, or at least more transparency around the governance of this information. We see emerging and changing views of data ownership, information rights and governance in an evolving regulatory landscape.
However, after years of legislation and thousands of words written about the benefits of openness, it is far from business as usual. It is not surprising to note that today, organisations still find it difficult to put openness into practice in their digital transformation journey.
“Proactively releasing information strengthens trust which builds a social licence to collect and use citizen information,” according to State Information Commissioner, Intermedium whitepaper.
Openness is fundamental to the way things operate in the digital world – where trust is essential.
It’s our trust in people, organisations and systems that enables things to run and transactions to take place. This is taking us well beyond the push-and-pull concepts of Freedom of Information and open data, toward more complex models of information exchange and engagement. Trust and transparency are the keys to success in this environment.
What if we thought about openness differently?
Yet openness is often viewed as something costly, risky and difficult. How could we shift perceptions of openness; to be seen as valuable and easy to do?
Openness involves interactions among several types of stakeholders with distinct goals and challenges. What if we could measure and demonstrate the benefits of openness at a more granular level, in terms that are meaningful to different personas? Rather than being an obligation, openness should deliver tangible returns, spanning the business of an organisation.
What does it take to build a culture of openness?
Much research has focused on the overarching legal and policy frameworks for openness and information access. More recent efforts have worked to identify and quantify broader social and economic benefits. We need to learn more about the balance between investment and value for different stakeholders, to build relationships and trust. We need to think differently about the dimensions for change in digital transformation.
The “Open by design” insight paper considers the intended outcomes of open governance and levers for change in the current digital context. It highlights interim findings from Objective’s in-progress research.
In search of a catalyst for openness, a research project
This research project examines the way organisations manage and respond to requests for information access. It considers the people, processes and systems involved in delivering openness, to understand the impact on an organisation, its customers or community. Organisations are invited to participate, share their experience and contribute to broader transformation. This will provide them the opportunity to benchmark themselves against peers and measure progress over time if they wish.
The aggregated results of this research will be presented at a live webcast on Tuesday 29th October, click here to register.