Can open data improve people’s access to information? In this article, Michael Cañares, Regional Research Manager at the Open Data Lab Jakarta looks at how citizens in Banda Aceh used Indonesia’s Freedom of Information Act, and how open data worked to bolster citizen participation.
On May 17, the Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers approved the Freedom of Information Act, that allows the citizens to freely access the documents of the Public Administration bodies and to request copies. This Act represents an important element of the new Reform of the Public Administration. All the requests presented by citizens cannot be rejected without valid reasons. The approved Act keep into account the suggestions and proposals presented by the Commissions of Parliament and Senate and of the Data Protection National Authority. Great parts of the input of the FOIA campaign have been included. The reasons for restricting access to public information include: national and public security; national defense; international relations; military issues; financial and economic policies of the State; judicial inquiries. Not all the comments positively welcomed the approval of the FOIA. Someone observed that with this formulation the rights to transparency of the Public administration have been bureaucratized: the FOIA limits the transparency granted by the legislative decree no. 33/2013. Duties and responsibilities of the Public Administration by the Decree of 2013 have not been confirmed. Furthermore no sanctions are foreseen for the public bodies that not respect the FOIA.