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IDB loan providing legal support for FOIA implementation

Government is continuing to nudge forward the long-proposed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), this time with the help of $3 million, part of a $30 million Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) loan dedicated to the government’s digital transformation.

Component three of the loan outline calls for “providing legal support for the implementation of the freedom of information legislation and institutional support to key government agencies to implement the freedom of information legislation, and also supporting its implementation in key government agencies”.

Questions abound regarding government’s stalled implementation of an FOIA, which was enacted by Parliament early last year, but never rolled out. Now it seems government could be taking the last steps to bring the FOIA to the public, given certain stringent requirements by the IDB.

The IDB’s outline explains that the lack of an FOIA “limits the capacity of the population to exercise the right to information on government records and activities”.

Its research finds that “data available to the public about the government’s activities is very limited and difficult to use, and transparency of construction permits and procurement processes is assessed as particularly low”.

According to the IDB, there is little in the way of access to government procedures available online, and it found that the culture across government agencies is to avoid information sharing. It also found that government data online is incomplete, outdated and not integrated.

According to the IDB, $14 million in component one of the $30 million loan outline will finance updating the catalogue of government procedures, simplifying and prioritizing them; updating the legal framework related to the provision of digital services; designing and implementing a government cloud computing service that will allow other government agencies to access a shared e-government infrastructure and applications; setting up an interoperability scheme, including standards, regulation and technological platform; updating and implementing the key tools for the provision of government digital services and putting online government procedures; digitizing government procedures related to property registration; digitizing government procedures related to setting up a business; and supporting the use of the National Insurance Board (NIB) database to provide digital citizen identification for government procedures.

In component two, $10 million will finance the designing and implementing of an institutional framework to manage digital government; setting up the government chief information officer role and professionalizing information and communication technology (ICT) in the public sector, including the training plans. In this phase, the focus will also be on updating the government ICT blueprint; setting up a ICT fund to support ICT-based strategic innovations across government; updating the key tools for the provision of government digital services; implementing an ICT skills gap assessment and, based on it, designing and implementing a plan to close the gap by adding new employees and training existing ones. Phase two will also bring designing and implementing a change management plan; undertaking a digital alphabetization program for citizens, small businesses and government employees not familiarized with most used digital tools; implementing a communications strategy to create citizens and businesses awareness; setting up a data culture and a data analytics office which will initially serve the whole government and will be subsequently extended to key ministries; and designing and implementing a cybersecurity strategy.

As well as the FOIA component three will look at “enhancing the transparency of public expenditures and investments by designing and implementing an information management platform; strengthening the Office of the Auditor General by introducing cutting-edge technologies to support its functions; and setting up a public expenditure observatory grounded on technological innovations”.

According to the IDB the $30 million loan should ease red tape for citizens and businesses, while simultaneously boosting the country’s competitiveness through the reduction of “time and cost of carrying out administrative procedures with the government”.

“By 2025, the goal is to increase by 70 percent the number of people using online government services to obtain a certified copy of their birth certificate and access the property registry,” an IDB press release stated.

Senior Business Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Chester Robards rejoined The Nassau Guardian in November 2017 as a senior business reporter. He has covered myriad topics and events for The Nassau Guardian.
Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism
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