UK government policy on citizens' access to public information
2010-03-16T11:23:51Z (GMT) by
This paper is based upon early findings of PhD research at the Department of Information Science, Loughborough University, 2007-2010. The research aims to identify the different strands of UK government policies on improving citizens’ access to public sector information (PSI) over the last 10 years, investigating how policies were developed and implemented, and by whom. It will particularly look at how the 2007 Power of Information Review (Mayo and Steinberg 2007) is influencing government information provision in the era of Web 2.0. eGovernment initiatives have already transformed the provision of PSI, whether directly through digital channels or through third parties, but use of Web 2.0 has considerable potential to expand information services still further. A review of the literature has so far found that much of the academic writing on eGovernance and eGovernment relates to business/systems re-engineering – ie technological aspects rather than policy aspects – and little has been written in the UK on national information policy, as opposed to IT policy, since 2002. Where policy aspects of eGovernment are covered, they tend to have a more general focus than the specific provision of public sector information, and increasingly address eDemocracy. There seem to have been few investigations into how information policy developed over time: a gap which this research is intended to fill. Using a critical realist approach, policies will be analysed through a content analysis of the policy documents, triangulated with analysis of published comment on the policies and in-depth semistructured interviews with key stakeholders from a range of perspectives. The intention is to gain a three-dimensional picture of the policy-making process and make recommendations on how it could and should work in future. Semi-structured interviews with approximately 50 individuals with different perspectives started in March 2009. Early findings show that co-ordination of policy across government is a problem, there is a need for leadership at the heart of government to make things happen, there is a lack of clarity on who actually makes information policy, and government needs a better understanding of the nature of information and information skills. Central to the research will be identifying what mechanisms, if any, were used to evaluate the success of the relevant eGovernment policies, and how the results of the evaluation were used to develop future policy. Unlike many other studies, the focus will be on qualitative measures, not just on metrics. Drawing on experience of evaluation in other countries, it is intended to develop a framework for the evaluation of current and future eGovernment information policy on the provision of PSI to citizens. Based on the research findings, we aim to make recommendations on how policy on access to public information might be measured and evaluated, and on future directions for research in this area.