Open Services case studies
Open Services outlines the opportunities available to public sector agencies to deliver services to the community in a more effective and efficient way such as administrative access and online services.
Case study – Accessing your health records: Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service
Queensland’s RTI Act promotes the release of information through administrative access arrangements wherever possible, without formal application under the RTI or IP Acts. These arrangements can be quicker and more efficient than making a formal access application, which is recognised under the legislation as being the ”last resort”.
Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service (CHHHS) has an administrative access scheme for patients wanting to access their own medical records. Wherever possible, CHHHS encourages patients to access their records via the administrative access scheme. This scheme is promoted on the CHHS website and intranet. OIC considers that having formal arrangements in place for the administrative release of specific kinds of information not only allows the community to understand how administrative access works in the agency, but also creates confidence in agency staff to release information.
In the course of OIC’s compliance review conducted in 2014-15, CHHHS executive management approved the appointment of an additional officer within the Release of Information (ROI) Unit, to coordinate provision of information through administrative access.
CHHHS advised that the position, once established, will focus on administrative access, including incoming administrative access applications and assisting the Manager, ROI Unit with drafting administrative access procedures. These procedures will aim to ensure that administrative access applications are completed within 15 business days. CHHS also advised that CHHHS executive management will monitor the progress of the strategy through quarterly reports.
Case study – Publishing information online: Queensland local government publication schemes and disclosure logs
One of the ways agencies can give effect to the push model is by publishing its publication scheme on their website. Seven classes of information must be included in all publication schemes: About Us; Our Services; Our Finances; Our Priorities; Our Decisions; Our Policies; and Our Lists. This breadth of information allows community members to understand the purpose of the agency, its activities and information about that agency that might be of interest. OIC has made its audit tools, available to agencies to assess their own publication scheme and improve it. Some agencies have already incorporated such checks into their internal audit program.
Examples of effective publication schemes:
The below council publication schemes have been selected because:
- they are easy to locate, facilitating ease of access to information
- they contain good introductory information explaining its purpose and use; and
- information about the terms on which information is made available has been included.
Disclosure logs form part of proactive disclosure of information under the RTI Act. Departments and Ministers are required to have disclosure logs that provide details of applications that have been made to the department or Minister under the RTI Act, and make available to the public the documents that have already been released under that Act. The rationale for disclosure logs is that if someone has expressed an interest in accessing particular documents, then the same documents might be of interest to the wider community.
An agency can make good use of a disclosure log to save time and cost in not having to re-process multiple applications for the same information. It can use a disclosure log to ensure that, with no additional effort, it provides exactly the same information consistently in response to the same requests for that information. Also, disclosure logs provide an opportunity for the agency to publish documents with associated supporting information, explaining issues of public interest in more detail.
Examples of good disclosure logs
OIC has recently audited all local government websites, including disclosure logs, and reported the findings to Parliament. The report identified examples of good disclosure logs:
Cloncurry Shire Council's disclosure log is easy to locate and access. The disclosure log provides an introduction outlining the purpose and use. Also, the Council has provided details identifying the document and information about how to access the document.
Fraser Coast Regional Council's disclosure log is easy to locate and access. The disclosure log webpage contains an introduction outlining the purpose and use of the disclosure log. To facilitate access, the Fraser Coast Regional Council has provided direct links to some documents in the disclosure log. For larger documents, the council has provided details identifying the document and information about how to access the document.
Find out more about OIC’s audit activities and how it assesses agencies’ (PDF, 370.27 KB)website publication schemes and disclosure logs against set criteria.
OIC recently reported on Results of Desktop Audits 2014-16: Website Compliance with Right to Information and Information Privacy — Local Governments and Hospital Foundations.
Case Study: Identifying what agency information can be published
The RTI Act is about, wherever possible, releasing or proactively publishing government information that the community is seeking. Formal access applications are a last resort.
Administrative access schemes where the public can access data sets, agency publications and policies or registers on an agency’s website are all ways to “push” valuable information out to the public.
Administrative access increases transparency, accountability and trust, reduces strain on agency resources, and boosts community participation in agency decision making—one of the fundamental principles of a democratic society. A strong administrative access policy will allow all officers to play their role in obtaining these benefits for their agency and the community.
OIC undertakes audits of agency compliance with the RTI Act. A recent audit of the Council of the City of the Gold Coast identified an administrative access arrangement which facilitated easy and useful administrative access to its information.
Example: Council of the City of the Gold Coast (COGCC)
Administrative access schemes need to be visible and easy for the community and agency officers to find and understand. COCGC supported its administrative access arrangements with a comprehensive and useful policy on Right to Information and Information Provision.
The policy clearly stated that when assessing an administrative access application, the objective was to maximise the flow of routine administrative information to the general public, while guarding against the inappropriate disclosure of sensitive information. A checklist helped staff to decide if information could be released administratively or if a formal application is required.
The checklist helped an officer to assess whether:
- the information requested was exempt from an administrative access process, in which case it suggested the officer ask the applicant to consider making an access application under the RTI Act
- personal information was included in the request, in which case the officer should remove the information or obtain the consent of the person to provide their information; and
- public interest factors might favour non-disclosure, in which case the officer should suggest the applicant consider an application under the RTI Act
Once all issues were addressed, the officer would prepare the information for administrative release.
Case Study – Prioritising customer needs: Department of Transport and Main Roads
Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads has made a commitment to creating a customer-centric culture that meets customer needs first time, every time. One of its strategic objectives is to put customers at the centre of the delivery of the department’s products and services to understand their expectations, improve their experience and reduce rework.
As stated in the department’s Annual Report 2014-15, Queensland’s estimated resident population is expected to grow to more than 7.5 million by 2036 and 8.6 million by 2044. The majority of this increase is likely to occur in south-east Queensland, coastal communities and regional centres. Coupled with these growth predictions, Queensland’s widely dispersed population results in public transport challenges, enormous lengths of road per capita (compared with most other states) and higher transport costs. New technologies to manage congestion present an opportunity for the department to embrace new technologies and proactively release information as a cost-effective means to improve transport efficiency, safety and meet customer expectations.
For example, south-east Queenslanders can now access real-time information to check predicted bus, ferry, train or tram arrival and departure times through the MyTransLink app.
OIC noted the proactive release of information using leading technology in its 2012-13 compliance review – Department of Transport and Main Roads: Review of the Department of Transport and Main Roads’ compliance with the Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) and the Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld).
Case study - Moving from paper to online forms: Brisbane City Council’s experience
The Brisbane City Council has transitioned from its existing paper-based application forms to online forms. The online forms were developed using the federal Department of Industry, Innovation and Science SmartForms Service in partnership with the Queensland Government Department of Tourism, Major Events, Small Business and the Commonwealth Games.
Adopting an open services approach and moving application forms online, helps Brisbane City Council meet customer expectations for effective digital services. This has resulted in benefits in three key areas, namely: saving customers time/money; reducing the need to re-contact customers; and meeting accessibility issues encountered with some document file formats i.e. PDF.
Case study - Delivering Services to Citizens and Consumers via Devices of Personal Choice
An audit conducted by the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office examined the approaches departments and agencies use to determine which services will be, or have already been, delivered online and how the effectiveness of digital service delivery are monitored.
The audit reported Victorian citizens and consumers expect that government services and information will be accessible online anytime, anywhere and on any device. Digital service delivery has the potential to increase public sector efficiency, cut lengthy wait times at traditional 'bricks and mortar' locations, and reduce costs associated with traditional service delivery approaches.