The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) joins the world to mark the International Day of Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) under the theme: Artificial intelligence, e-Governance and Access to Information.
In the context of the increasing advancement in technology which is changing the information milieu, the theme underscores the need for a digital upgrade in access to information infrastructure in West Africa.
Over the years, the MFWA has been implementing projects aimed at increasing awareness and facilitating effective implementation of access to information laws across West Africa. In the course of these activities, the absence of proper information-keeping and processing infrastructure has emerged as one of the major setbacks in the access to information landscape in the region.
In many instances, citizens are denied their fundamental right to access information not because the public institutions disregard the access to information laws but because the information being requested does not exist due to poor record keeping.
Across the West Africa region, many public institutions continue to store years of valuable data and information manually; in printed papers, notebooks and files. In the unfortunate incident of floods, fire outbreaks or any other disaster, this treasure trove of documents is destroyed in a flash. Information kept manually is sometimes also lost to time, due to the expiration of the manual information-holding containers.
In line with the call for the upgrade of the infrastructure is the need to build the information technology (IT) capacities of the information officers of public institutions. The staff of government ministries, departments and agencies must be introduced to electronic processing and handling of public records to facilitate the release and dissemination of information.
The Media Foundation for West Africa believes that building the digital infrastructure and IT capacities of the public institutions and their staff will greatly enhance the effective implementation of access to information laws in West Africa. It will also help provide the necessary data and records that will enrich public discourse as well as inform policy formulation and implementation to facilitate development.