November 25, 2015 By Memunatu Bangura
Right to Access Information Commission (RAIC),in collaboration with Open Aid Partnership at the World Bank, has concluded a 12 day on-site mission on Open Data Readiness Assessment (ODRA) with intensive focus group discussions among ministers, senior government officials, civil society and private sector actors on the need to enhance the right to access information in the country.
The concluding meeting was hosted at the Ministry of Information and Communications last Thursday, attracting participants from ministries, departments and agencies and key players in promoting the right to access information.
Minister of Information and Communications, Alhaji Alpha Kanu, reiterated government’s willingness to support the right to access information, adding that they were ready and determined to create an open society where people will access information that is in the custody of government officials.
He said the President had appointed competent citizens to effectively man the activities of the commission with a mandate to popularise the purpose for which it was established.
Chairman RAIC, Unisa Sesay, commended the effort of the World Bank team and their sustained support, adding that the commission had been working closely with the World Bank and the Open Government Initiative (OGI) in enhancing the right to access information law.
He said government had demonstrated willingness to promote the right to access information, noting that the Commission was established in November last year, at the height of the Ebola epidemic when almost all government resources were directed towards the fight against the deadly virus.
Mr. Sesay encouraged the public to effectively utilise the Act and request for information from public institutions in order to access the correct information about government activities and stand a better position to make informed decision on how they should be governed.
“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,” he said.
In a power point presentation, the lead World Bank 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, including politicians and small scale businesses, seeking their views on the way forward in enhancing the right to access information.
In her preliminary assessment report, Ms. Holm noted that the Open Data Portal provides strong technical starting point, although it needs more support and dataset, adding that data and records management was lacking. She said data accessibility also pose serious issues as the preliminary policies are already in place but gaps still exist.
She said though that data demand was high from many factors, but training in data management and data-driven decisions remain critical, while communication was needed inside and outside of government.