[LINK] Information Publication Scheme Draft Agency Plan

Tom Worthington tom.worthington at tomw.net.au
Sun Mar 27 17:33:24 AEDT 2011

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has issued a 
"Information Publication Scheme Draft Agency Plan" for comment by 28 
March 2011: 

The document describes how the OAIC proposes to provide details of its 
own information. The document discusses information architecture, what 
information is to be published including that required by the FOI Act, 
accessibility, compliance review and how to promote community 
engagement. The OAIC clearly is intending to set an example for other 
agencies to follow. Unfortunately the good information and intentions of 
the OAIC have been let down by the poor way the document has been 
formatted. I suggest OAIC adopt Australian Government standard document 
formats, and so set a good example to other agencies.

This is a 19 page document supplied in PDF (449kbytes) and RTF 
(20Mbytes) formats. Clearly there is a fault in the formatting of the 
RTF file, resulting an excessively sized document (about 10 times larger 
than it need be).

When saved as an ODF text document (the format used by National Archives 
of Australia) for long term preservation of government documents, the 
files is 747 kbytes. An examination of the contents of the ODF file 
indicate that most of the file size is due to incorrectly formatted 
logos. The factual content of the document is only about 25 kbytes.

I suggest the OAIC abandon the use of PDF and RTF for publishing 
documents and instead provide accessible, well structured web pages (in 
HTML). Such documents will be easier top maintain and read.

More generally I suggest that the OAIC and agencies providing FOI 
Disclosure Logs and other information for the public adopt the metadata 
standards and document formats recommended by the National Archives of 
Australia (NAA) for the long term preservation of government records. 
The documents which are required to be provided under FOI legislation 
are a subset of those held by government agencies. Eventually those 
documents will be required to be transferred to the NAA, along with 
metadata describing them. NAA has established technical standards for 
the metadata and documents, in accordance with international records 
management standards. NAA has also produced free open source software to 
aid this process.

Rather than have OAIC and other government agency create documents in 
one format and then some time later have them converted for archiving, I 
suggest agencies use the standard metadata and formats for storage of 
the documents internally. These then can be provided to the public 
without the need for conversion and eventually transferred to NAA.

I suggest OAIC abandon the use of PDF and RTF for providing documents. 
Instead documents can be provided as web pages. This will make the files 
supplied much smaller and easier to read. In supplying metadata about 
documents, such as in a document log, I suggest the OAIC use the same 
metadata standards issued by NAA for records management. This data can 
be supplied in the form of automatically generated web pages, as well as 
machine readable formats.

For an overview of the technology and techniques behind this approach 
see the notes for the postgraduate course COMP7420 "Electronic Document 
and Records Management,", for the Graduate Studies Select program, 
College of Engineering & Computer Science, the Australian National 
University, 2011: <http://tomw.net.au/emanagement/>.

To demonstrate how documents can be provided is web format, here is the 
text of the OAIC's paper, created by coping and pasting from the RTF 

Tom Worthington FACS CP HLM, TomW Communications Pty Ltd. t: 0419496150
PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617, Australia  http://www.tomw.net.au
Adjunct Senior Lecturer, School of Computer Science, The
Australian National University http://cs.anu.edu.au/courses/COMP7310/
Visiting Scientist, CSIRO ICT Centre: http://bit.ly/csiro_ict_canberra

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