First published on Armedia.com. Reposted with permission.
The Access to Information and Privacy Act (ATIP) of Canada came into effect in 1983. With this act, under the control of a federal government institution, Canadian citizens, permanent residents, or other individuals or corporations in Canada have the right of access to information. This act defines the procedures for processing ATIP requests including deadlines for response and the circumstances under which government agencies can withhold information.
The Information Commissioner was created to investigate complaints about non-compliance with the act’s requirements.
The government recognizes ATIP as an essential element of democracy, transparency, and openness. Even so, according to the Information Commissioner, federal agencies are struggling to keep up with that transparency.
Old Age: The Root Cause of ATIP Complaints
According to the Information Commissioner Caroline Maynard, ATIP is very outdated:
“I was surprised by how complex the Access to Information Act was. It’s a very complicated part of the law … and very outdated, unfortunately.”
Bill C-58 should provide a long-overdue update of the ATIP framework that hasn’t seen any changes since its inception. The outdated framework and the growing number of ATIP requests (up 225% in the past 5 years) is placing a heavy burden on government agencies.
The old legal framework accompanied by old software and a growing number of ATIP requests results in a growing number of complaints.
“(We) are struggling to respond to the demand for access. (Institutions) don’t have the resources and we don’t have the technology to respond to that kind of increase,” said Maynard.
It is obvious from Maynard’s statements that Canadian agencies lack a modern technology that could help them respond to all the received requests in a timely manner.
Expedience isn’t the only problem Canadian agencies are facing.
Top Challenges of Canadian ATIP Agencies
Let’s start from the very beginning – the submission of requests. Citizens can file for the disclosure of information through an online portal. But online requests can be subjected to security issues, especially when requesting a document from a public space.
The whole process of submitting a request is very complex, and depending on the type of request, the citizens can easily be overwhelmed with the required documents.
Submitting a request to the wrong department is a common mistake, and in that case, most requests cannot be transferred across the institutions.
Security, complexity, and collaboration between departments are some of the key challenges Canadian government agencies are facing today. Since government agencies are working with personal information, data security is the first thing they should think of.
Staﬃng issues are another problem Canadian agencies are facing on a daily basis. Many federal agencies have reported the lack of staff and expertise needed to process requests effectively. This is one of the major causes of delays. To retain and attract personnel, employees are promoted before they possess the required skills. This lack of knowledge hinders efficiency.
Job classifications vary between departments, reducing flexibility. The skills required to perform in multiple functions is not well-defined.
Budget constraints are another challenge for reducing backlog of requests and resulting complaints. According to the Information Commissioner, the government’s “stopgap approach” to funding is jeopardizing the efforts to clear the backlog of complaints from dissatisfied requesters.
In her latest annual plan, Maynard said, it is difficult to set goals and maintain momentum because of the financial instability her office is facing.
Deadline extensions and search volume are also problematic. The ability for agencies to manage information successfully is key to a sustainable access regime. The speed with which ATIP records are created has outpaced the traditional record-keeping practices. This has a direct impact on the ability for agencies to search and locate records needed to fulfill a request.
As a result, government agencies are increasing deadline extensions, so they can effectively search for the needed information and process massive volumes of documents.
Email communications themselves have added to the number of records processed without adding to their quality.
Government agencies also struggle with the review and redaction of records. Although some agencies use software for this purpose, other agencies are still struggling to manually review and redact requests. Government agencies do know that automated tools help reduce the processing time, but by focusing on up-front cost alone, decision-makers deem these solutions as too costly.
Obviously, there are many challenges government agencies are struggling with. The ATIP process has numerous issues, not surprisingly since the system is over three decades old and administered by a law that has never had a complete overhaul.
What can the agencies do to reduce the time spent on processing requests and still stay in budget?
Invest in a modern yet cost-effective ATIP solution.
ArkCase ATIP Solution: A Modern, Cost-Effective Solution for Canadian Agencies
ArkCase provides an adaptive, dynamic open-source case Management platform to support your ATIP needs. ArkCase for ATIP reduces the time spent on request processing and improves the effectiveness of the entire process, increasing efficiency throughout the entire public request lifecycle: from submission to final response and delivery of the requested documents.
The ArkCase ATIP solution is created to meet all the requirements to provide necessary security.
Here are some of the key features and their benefits of the ArkCase ATIP software solution:
1. Automation of the Entire ATIP Process
Processing a vast number of requests is one of the biggest problems government agencies face. To assist in reducing backlogs, the ArkCase ATIP solution is fully automated and easy-to-use.
From online public request submission to delivery, this solution accelerates and automates processing. No more piles of paper. No more backlogs. No more complaints.
2. One Interface for Communication
The ArkCase ATIP solution uses one interface for internal and external communications. This allows fast and easy communication between departments and agencies as well as citizens.
3. Pre-Configured Workflows
When a request is submitted, the ArkCase ATIP solution stores it and creates a pre-configured secure workflow. The standard format of the workflow makes the whole process easier for staff.With ArkCase’s ‘multi-track and automatic status update feature, ATIP staff will always know when and what they are supposed to do. This makes public request processing much simpler, easier, and faster.
4. Online Submission of ATIP Requests
The ArkCase solution allows online submission of requests. Citizens anywhere can easily request government information.
5. Data Storage & Access to Records
As cloud-based software, our solution stores and maintains all the records and correspondences on a secure AWS cloud infrastructure that meets Canadian security requirements.
This allows employees to have secure access to data from anywhere in the world on any device with an Internet connection.
These are just a handful of features that make the ArkCase ATIP Software Solution a reliable, scalable, secure, and cost-effective solution.
With the ArkCase ATIP solution, government agencies can significantly simplify request submission and fulfillment. From the online submission of public requests to digital delivery, the ArkCase ATIP software solution improves the process from beginning to end.
This way, government agencies can get more done, in less time, with less manual work, and with fewer complaints to the Information Commissioner office.
The purpose of ATIP is to provide Canadian citizens a right of access to records under the control of government agencies. Agencies are facing many challenges that contribute to large backlogs and a huge number of complaints.
The biggest challenge is that most of the agencies still lack the technology needed to effectively accept and process requests in a timely manner.
Luckily, there is a modern, cost-effective solution to their challenges – the ArkCase ATIP solution. With ArkCase, Canadian agencies can reduce backlogs and get more done, in less time.
I hope that this blog post will be helpful for you as an ATIP department manager or staﬀ member, to see what challenges government agencies to struggle with, and how a solution like ArkCase can help overcome those challenges.
If you want to discover more about the ArkCase ATIP solution, or you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to contact us.
And don’t forget to share this blog post with your friends on social media networks so they can also see how the biggest challenges of government agencies can easily be solved with one modern solution.