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Finland

Access to information knowledge in the public administration (FI0026)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Finland National Action Plan 2017-2019

Action Plan Cycle: 2017

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: NA

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Capacity Building, Fiscal Transparency, Right to Information

IRM Review

IRM Report: Finland Design Report 2017–2019

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Pending IRM Review

Relevant to OGP Values: Not Relevant

Potential Impact: Pending IRM Review

Implementation i

Completion: Pending IRM Review

Description

Taking care of the know-how of the access to information legislation and of the legal praxis that guides its interpretation. This is a way to secure that the interpretation principles are as consistent as possible in the administration. Access to information needs to be the main rule also in practice. Here it is important however to note that there are special areas and special legislation, as an example the security issues of police related to general and individual security. Supporting the know-how of access to information legislation by taking care that it is included in civil servants training and education. At the same time attention will be paid to understandability. Information is not genuinely public if it is not presented in an easy to understand way.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

4. Strengthening the skills and knowledge of access to information legislation in the public administration

 

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan:

“Taking care of the know-how of the access to information legislation and of the legal praxis that guides its interpretation. This is a way to secure that the interpretation principles are as consistent as possible in the administration. Access to information needs to be the main rule also in practice. Here it is important however to note that there are special areas and special legislation, as an example the security issues of police related to general and individual security.

Supporting the know-how of access to information legislation by taking care that it is included in civil servants training and education. At the same time attention will be paid to understandability. Information is not genuinely public if it is not presented in an easy to understand way.”[Note : Finland National Action Plan 2017-2019 (in English), https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/Finland_NAP_2017-2019_EN.pdf.]

Start Date: Not identified             

End Date: Not identified

Context and Objectives

The commitment seeks to improve understanding of the access to information legislation and principle among government officials. According to two journalists interviewed for this report, there is a need for improvement in the application and know-how of access to information legislation.[Note : Juha Rekola, International Ombudsman, The Union of Journalists Finland. Email interview 20.02.2019. Jyrki Räikkä, Journalist, Helsingin Sanomat. Member of the Open Government Support Group. Email comment 20.02.2019.] According to the international ombudsman of the Union of Finnish Journalists, civil servants are sometimes unknowledgeable of access to information legislation or might interpret the law in a confused manner.[Note : Juha Rekola, International Ombudsman, The Union of Journalists Finland. Email interview 20.02.2019.] Understandability of information is also an issue, along with long response times for access to information requests and potential high fees for information services.[Note : Ibid.]

The commitment addresses the lack of know-how to respond to access to information requests in public administration and the issues surrounding understandability of information. However, it does not directly address the problem of long response times or the high fees associated with access to information requests. The commitment is not verifiable, and it concerns the inner workings of the government without a clear public-facing element. It could be made more concrete by identifying responsible agencies and specific milestones and by increasing its outreach through the inclusion of a public-facing element. The commitment addresses a specific problem in public administration. However, because it only seeks to ensure the adequate execution of the current legal standard, its potential impact does not go beyond minor.

Next steps

The IRM researcher suggests that:

  • The government could provide indicators through which the completion of this commitment is measured, such as data on the decisions made by the Administrative Court on access to information requests.
  • The government could collect feedback on government communication and access to information requests from the civil society and media organisation to better assess the impact of this commitment.[Note : Summary of comments on Finland’s third national action plan submitted during the consultation period 2 February –3 March 2017, p.38, https://avoinhallinto.fi/assets/files/2017/06/Lausuntoyhteenveto-III-toimintaohjelma.pdf.]
  • If this commitment is carried forward, the government could identify government agencies whose funding depends on access to information requests and seek to decrease this dependency.



Finland's Commitments

  1. Supporting everyone’s possibility to participate.

    FI0023, 2017, E-Government

  2. Clear government reforms and services

    FI0024, 2017, Fiscal Transparency

  3. Access to information on incorporated public services

    FI0025, 2017, Fiscal Transparency

  4. Access to information knowledge in the public administration

    FI0026, 2017, Capacity Building

  5. Publishing state procurement data to citizens

    FI0027, 2017, E-Government

  6. Regional Reform information

    FI0028, 2017, Infrastructure & Transport

  7. Training regional administration in open government principles

    FI0029, 2017, Capacity Building

  8. Clear administration

    FI0019, 2015, E-Government

  9. Government as an enabler

    FI0020, 2015, E-Government

  10. Open Procedures

    FI0021, 2015, E-Government

  11. Engage Children, Youth, Elderly

    FI0022, 2015, Public Participation

  12. Enhancing the openness of preparatory processes

    FI0001, 2013, E-Government

  13. Emphasizing dialogue skills in the job descriptions of civil servants

    FI0002, 2013, Capacity Building

  14. Strengthening proactive publishing and communication

    FI0003, 2013, Capacity Building

  15. Promoting participatory budgeting

    FI0004, 2013, Participation in Budget Processes

  16. Increasing openness and customer orientation in ICT and e-services development

    FI0005, 2013, E-Government

  17. Increasing the number of open and online meetings

    FI0006, 2013, E-Government

  18. Standard language titles and resumes will be drafted of the Government proposals.

    FI0007, 2013, Capacity Building

  19. Visualization of decisions

    FI0008, 2013, E-Government

  20. Training will be organised for civil servants in use of clear language and plain language in- cluding committing to use of terms already known.

    FI0009, 2013, Capacity Building

  21. The comprehensibility of the texts produced by public administration will be tested to- gether with citizens and service users.

    FI0010, 2013, Capacity Building

  22. Standardizing and clarifying the terms and concepts used in public administration and ser- vice production.

    FI0011, 2013, Capacity Building

  23. The comprehensibility of customer letters and decisions will be enhanced, especially when using standard texts.

    FI0012, 2013, Capacity Building

  24. Opening and publishing new data and changing existing open data into a machine- readable form.

    FI0013, 2013, Open Data

  25. Clear terms for use of for open data and knowledge

    FI0014, 2013, Open Data

  26. Strengthening skills needed to understand combining privacy and open data and strength- ening the citizen’s right to his/her own personal information “the right to be anonymous”

    FI0015, 2013, Capacity Building

  27. Tearing down barriers of action of the civil society

    FI0016, 2013, Capacity Building

  28. The proactive presence and accessibility of civil servants

    FI0017, 2013, Capacity Building

  29. Providing tools and training to organizations

    FI0018, 2013, Capacity Building