“Open Access” and “Access to Information” were the key areas discussed in an awareness raising workshop for Public Servants, held by the Office of the Ombudsman, also the National Human Rights Institute (NHRI) of Samoa.
The NHRI partnered with UNESCO and the Open Educational Resources Foundation under the Samoa Knowledge Society Initiative to host the 2-day workshop that unpacked critical concepts around the right of Samoa’s public to access information.
This workshop is a follow-up from the high-level dialogue with Heads of Government Ministries held earlier this month, aimed at raising awareness among public servants on two issues.
First, facilitating access to open education resources that in turn helps build knowledge communities and secondly, to access information within the public administration context. This aims to empower the participation of citizens in discussions of issues affecting them by having access to accurate and relevant official information.
The Ombudsmans Office stressed that access to information is a critical component in promoting transparency and good governance among public institutions. However, Government’s obligation to fulfill its duty to share and make available information to the public cannot be achieved if its institutions do not have in place solid mechanisms and systems to facilitate the control and management of such information to be shared with the public.
In sharing such information held by public institutions it was also emphasized by the Ombudsman that this does not mean all information held by Government will be accessible and available. “Disclosure would be subject to restrictions set by legislation. “Therefore, capacity building and awareness-raising among public servants are key in building a culture of disclosure within the public service guided by a clear understanding of restrictions and set criteria to determine the information that can and cannot be disclosed”.
Participants heard from various speakers on open access in the academic space, as well as processes and procedures that currently exist within some public institutions to share official information. Other speakers spoke to the storing of and access to archived records, and components of the soon to be finalized policy of freedom of information.
“The outcome of the workshop will greatly contribute to ongoing efforts by the Government and its various partners in the development of a right to information policy and legislation that are currently being undertaken”.
The Office of the Ombudsman acknowledges the partnership of UNESCO and the Samoa Knowledge Initiative Society in support of this work.