Public access to information is often equated with transparency, and regarded as a panacea for all types of corruption and malpractice. What sometimes goes unrecognised, however, is the key role played by this approach in the stakeholder empowerment process. However, it is important to remember that information must not only be available to the public, it must be accurate and complete. This can be a very complex process, as experience with Freedom of Information laws has shown, but acceptance of the principle and establishment of a process are important elements in the promotion of transparency and accountability. Access to information is one of the key factors in the promotion of more effective participation in decision making by stakeholders.
This Section has eight main tools (or categories of tools) to support the process of enhancing public access to information. Tools such as public meetings and open meetings laws describe the mechanisms to engage the community in open discussions on important decisions about their future. The description of Access to Information laws illustrates the key features of legislation to enhance public access to information. Records management, computerisation and e-government help to make data and information easily available to all citizens through improved procedures and effective use of information technology. Public education and public participation tools elaborate on a variety of mechanisms that may be employed to engage effectively with the community.
The tools included in this section are:
2.7 Public Meetings
2.8 Open Meetings Laws
2.9 Access to Information Laws
2.10 Records Management and Computerisation
2.12 Media Training
2.13 Public Education tools
2.14 Public Participation tools