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#access2information

Sri Lanka needs critical minds for critical times!

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture

Every year, May 3rd is marked around the globe as World Press Freedom Day. This year UNESCO has declared the theme “Critical Minds for Critical Times”. Recently, Sri Lanka joined the ranks of nations that have taken progressive steps in making information available to the public by unveiling its own Right to Information (RTI) law. This is an important first step for the country. Experience from different parts of the world suggests that opening up access to information is an ongoing process that requires patience and perseverance to bring the full benefits of disclosure to a large number of stakeholders including, citizens, private sector and government.

women working on computers 

The World Bank unveiled its own policy on the disclosure of information in 2002. The Bank felt compelled to do so as knowledge sharing is an integral part of its development mission.  Moreover, the Bank needed to share information in order to get a better pulse from its stakeholders on how its services were performing; how it could improve but also to serve an increasing demand for its information and data.  In 2010 this policy was revised through a series of public consultations. Even so, the document is still evolving with constant feedback from our clients and citizens from countries we serve.
 
Opening up the institution has also meant exposing our staff and projects to public scrutiny. When I joined the World Bank in 1995, it was a very different institution; most information was restricted. Our journey from a closed institution to an open one has not been easy. We have learnt that merely implementing a policy is not enough to achieve the real reason for opening up; allow people to review, analyze and make informed judgements based on concrete information and data.  But more importantly we now know better that how staff perceive the increased access and its impact is the biggest challenge and yet also an opportunity.