The Right to Access Information Commission in collaboration with the Open Aid partnership of the world Bank has concluded a 12 day on-site mission on ODRA with intensive focus group discussions with various sections of the pubic that include Ministers, senior government officials, Civil Society Organizations, lecturers, students, the media and the private sector on the need to enhance the right to access information in the country.
The wrap up meeting that was hosted at the conference room of the Ministry of Information and Communications on 19th November, 2015 attracted participants drawn from MDAs, CSOs, private Sector, lecturers and other key players in promoting the right to access information.
In his statement, the Hon. Minister of Information and Communications, Alhaji Alpha B S Kanu reiterated government’s willingness to support the right to access information saying that government is ready and determined to create an open society where people will have the opportunity to access information that is in the custody of government officials.
The Minister assured his audience that the President has appointed committed and qualified persons as Chairman and Commissioners to effectively oversee the work of the Commission and to ensure that the phenomenon is popularized and the purpose for which it was established is realized.
The Chairman Right to Access Information Communication (RAIC) Unisa Sesay commended the effort of the World Bank team saying that the Commission has been working in close collaboration with the World Bank and the Open Government Initiative (OGI) to enhance then right to access information law.
He said that government has demonstrated willingness to promote the right to access information noting that the Commission was established in November, 2014 at the height of the Ebola epidemic when almost all government resources were directed towards the fight against the deadly virus.
The Chairman encouraged the public to make use of the Act and request for information from public institutions so that they will have the correct information about government activities which will put them in a better position to make informed decision on how they should be governed. He said the doors of the Commission are always open to the public as the Commission is always ready and willing to provide the necessary support to facilitate the effectiveness of the phenomenon.
In a power point presentation, the World Bank Lead Consultant, Geanne Holm said they have met over 200 people in about 40 meetings in the past two weeks engaging them in focus group discussions on the right to access information. She said they targeted a wide range of people ranging from politicians to small scale business seeking their views on the way forward in enhancing the right to access information.
In her preliminary assessment report, the Lead Consultant noted that the Open Data Portal provides strong technical starting point but needed more support and dataset whilst pointing out that the data and records management is lacking. She further stated that data accessibility has serious issues noting that preliminary policies are already in place but gaps do exists.
She further noted that data demand is high from many factors but training in data management and data-driven decisions remain critical whilst communication is needed inside and outside of government.