Increasingly the right to information is being seen as a human right. Information Commissioners from more than 30 countries are gathering in Midrand at the International Conference for Information Commissioners, to deliberate on how to promote the right to information access.
Chairperson of Information Regulator South Africa, Advocate Pansy Tlakula, who has recently led an African Union initiative to produce a model law on access to information and to develop guidelines about transparency during elections, says “Accessibility to information can foster good governance.”
She says they will use the next three days to share experiences on issues pertaining to the protection of personal information and Promotion of Access to Information.
WATCH | Advocate Pansy Tlakula’s interview below:
South Africa has made strides in this regard with the introduction of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) & Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI).
Despite recognising the importance of access to information for its citizens with the establishment of a statutory body like the Information Regulator, many factors still hinder South Africans from easily accessing information.
One of the biggest challenges in accessing online based information in particular, is the high cost of data.
Though the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals call for zero-rated (free access, no data needed) websites, there seems to be reluctance in dropping the price of data in South Africa.
UNESCO Director of Freedom of Expression and Media Development, Professor Guy Berger says another challenge is that of language. He says public information must make sense to the citizens.
“The information must be in your mother tongue and should be easy to read on a cellphone.”
Berger says governments should make an effort to make sure that their information documents are mobile friendly.
WATCH | Professor Guy Berger’s interview below:
A speaker from Kenya, Stephanie Muchai of Open Up Contracting says information from governments is sometimes difficult for citizens to understand.
She suggests that governments must have what she calls Inform diaries – people who take complex public documents and simplify then for mass public consumption.
The delegates have also agreed on the need to make Access to information easy as it is a must for democracies in ensuring citizen empowerment.
Since 2003 Information Commissioners from around the word have been meeting every two years under the auspices of the International Conference of Information Commissioners.