Today is the tenth International Right to Know Day. Freedom of Information organisations and advocates around the world are marking the day with activities to celebrate and raise awareness of the right to information. FOIAnet has a good overview of things that are happening around the world.
What does access to information have to do with open data? Last year the Open Knowledge Foundation co-authored a report on this with Access Info called Beyond Access:
Open Government Data and the Right to Reuse Public Information – looking at opportunities for open government data advocates to work more closely with access to information advocates.
One of our findings was:
The access to information and open government data movements are not yet collaborating sufficiently closely and are therefore missing opportunities to advance the transparency agenda. At the same time there are key actors who can make linkages and serve as bridges between the two communities. This study has found that the transparency agenda could be advanced more effectively if access to information and open government data advocates were to collaborate more closely. The rights based approach of the access to information movement could complement the arguments about the economic and social benefits of releasing government data employed by open government data advocates.
The research for this report revealed that members of these movements do not talk the same language: open government data experts are not familiar with the law-based approach of access to information advocates, while the technical terminology employed by the civic hackers is baffling for the human rights activists. Further training and networking is needed for these two communities to be able to define common strategies and advocacy goals.
Since the report was published things have started to change. Projects such as What Do They Know?, Ask the EU, Frag den Staat, and Alaveteli demonstrate what is possible when open data hackers and freedom of information activists start working together. But there are still many other things that could be done in this area.
We hope that Right to Know Day serves as a good excuse for two groups to reach out to each other and to look for more opportunities to collaborate!
Dr. Jonathan Gray is Lecturer in Critical Infrastructure Studies at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London, where he is currently writing a book on data worlds. He is also Cofounder of the Public Data Lab; and Research Associate at the Digital Methods Initiative (University of Amsterdam) and the médialab (Sciences Po, Paris). More about his work can be found at jonathangray.org and he tweets at @jwyg.