ESARBICA Journal: Journal of the Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Branch of the International Council on Archives

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Access to government information: a global phenomenon but what are the challenges?

Proscovia Svärd


The article discusses global access to government information developments and challenges. Access to information is a human right endowed upon global citizens through article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There are several initiatives, laws and directives that are promoting information access. For it is believed that information is the oxygen of democracy and hence a promoter of good governance. Information enables citizens to enjoy their fundamental rights such as the right to life, health and education. In the information society that we are all part of today, information is considered a driver of economic, cultural and political achievements, enhanced by information technology. There are, however, significant barriers to information access. To meaningfully explore government information, one needs to be in possession of the requisite skills that can turn the accessed information into a useful product/service and must be able to use it to one’s own advantage. Issues of the digital divide; underdeveloped information management infrastructures, lack of political will, illiteracy, poorly implemented information access laws; education; lack of information management skills are among the parameters that should be addressed before citizens can fully access government information. Currently, most government ministries operate in a digital environment. Existing research shows that the management of digital information requires enormous investments and is still a challenge where information must be maintained for a long term. In societies where information management infrastructures are poor and corruption is rampant, there is very little political will to address these issues. Therefore, if the barriers to information access are not addressed, certain sections of citizens will continue to suffer from information poverty where others are suffering from information overload. Through the secondary data research method and the analysis of existing research, the author accessed scientific articles relevant to the issue that has been researched.

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