Project 7: Whole of Government Information Publication Scheme
E-Knowledge Structures provided a framework for a whole of government information publication scheme to encourage greater disclosure of public sector information based on anticipated changes to FOI legislation in Australia and international best practice (particularly the UK and Queensland). The report recommended that the proposed new Office of the Information Commission develop and implement an Information Publication scheme that would provide guidance and support to agencies (particularly in relation to licensing and copyright), and monitor/report on their progress against the scheme’s objectives. The report also identified the need for a whole of government search strategy to support improved discoverability and use of all agency information available to the public under the scheme.
A project entitled ‘Whole-of-government Information Publication Scheme’ rarely stirs the imagination, even perhaps of those of us engaged to conduct the project! We expected that the Government 2.0 Taskforce process would focus on the promise of the Web2.0 technologies, and how their potential might best be harnessed by government. The interactions on the Taskforce website have tended to confirm our expectations.
But good processes are important for government, if policy objectives are to be achieved in practice. And agencies worry constantly about resource limitations. In our experience, agencies often respond slowly to the opportunities of new technologies. Of necessity, they respond with some alacrity to obligations imposed by new legislation. Information Publication Schemes will be mandatory for agencies subject to the new Freedom of Information and Information Commissioner Bills.
But agencies’ main concerns are with improved service delivery and policy outcomes. In our report, we have tried to think through how the new Schemes might best support agencies and their clients. Information Publication Schemes have a potential to change the way agencies interact with the public and other government bodies. But they need to be integrated into agencies’ ongoing planning for service improvement, otherwise they will be seen as just another compliance obligation to which lip-service is paid. This will require some real champions at both agency and political levels.