Freedom of Information Indicator


This indicator measures a government’s commitment to enable or allow information to move freely in society. It is a composite index that includes a measure of press freedom; the status of national freedom of information laws; and a measure of internet filtering.

Relationship to Growth & Poverty Reduction

Governments play a role in information flows; they can restrict or facilitate information flows within countries or across borders. Many of the institutions (laws, regulations, codes of conduct) that governments design are created to manage the flow of information in an economy. 1 Countries with better information flows often have better quality governance and less corruption. 2 Higher transparency and access to information have been shown to increase investment inflows because they enhance an investor’s knowledge of the behaviors and operations of institutions in a target economy; help reduce uncertainty about future changes in policies and administrative practices; contribute data and perspectives on how best an investment project can be initiated and managed; and allow for the increased coordination between social and political actors that typifies successful economic development. 3 The right of access to information within government institutions also strengthens democratic accountability, promotes political participation of all, reduces governmental abuses, and leads to more effective allocation of natural resources. 4 Access to information also empowers marginalized groups and those living in poverty by giving them the ability to more fully participate in society and providing them with knowledge that can be used for economic gain. 5 Internet shutdowns are harmful as they not only restrict the ability of civil society to engage in political participation and government oversight, but also restrict market access and cost economies billions of dollars each year. 6


  1. Reports without Borders’ (RSF) World Press Freedom Index, Questions regarding this indicator may be directed to or +33 1 44 83 84 65

World Press Freedom Index methodology: RSF compiles its data by pooling experts’ responses to 87 questions related to pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information. This qualitative analysis is combined with quantitative data on abuses and acts of violence against journalists during the period evaluated.

  1. Centre for Law and Democracy and Access Info’s Right to Information Index, Questions regarding this indicator may be directed to Toby Mendel at or +1 (902) 431-3688.

 Right to Information Methodology: In this dataset, a freedom of information law is rated based on 61 indicators. RTI includes any country with a freedom of information law on the books.

  1. Access Now’s #KeepItOn Shutdown Tracker Optimization Project, Questions regarding this indicator may be directed to or +1 (888) 414-0100.

Access Now Methodology: Countries are assigned one point for every day of internet or social media shutdown/throttling up to 9 days. Shutdowns listed as ongoing are assumed to last until the end of the year. Shutdowns that last less than one day are counted as one day. Shutdowns with no end date are assumed to only last one day. If no duration is listed, but a start and end date are listed, a duration is calculated. Non-government shutdowns and non-government throttlings are excluded.

MCC Methodology

MCC FOI Score = (Press) – (FOIA in place) + (Access Now)

This indicator uses a country’s score on RSF’s World Press Freedom Index (Press) as the base. In FY21, MCC uses RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index, which covers events in 2019. A country’s base score may improve based on data from the Global Right to Information Rating. In FY21, MCC uses Centre for Law and Democracy / Access Info Europe’s Global Right to Information Rating (RTI) from 2020. A country’s score is improved by 4 points if they have a Freedom of Information law enacted. Data from Access Now is used to penalize some countries’ base scores. A country’s score is penalized 1 point for each day in the last calendar year (2019) of internet or social media shutdown/throttling, for a total penalty of up to 9 points. For FY21, MCC uses Access Now data from the 2019 #KeepItOn Shutdown Tracker Optimization Project report. On this index, lower is better.

Note regarding construction of missing data: Prior to FY20, MCC utilized Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press scores for its Press component. In 2018, however, Freedom House stopped publishing Freedom of the Press, and MCC selected RSF’s World Press Freedom Index as a replacement. Both indices measure similar concepts on an identical scale (0-100, with lower scores being better). However, because MCC is using a different indicator for Press in FY21, current year data on MCC’s scorecard is not comparable to data found on prior year MCC scorecards.

In addition, the RSF index does not report data for all countries that had data reported by Freedom House, As such, MCC is using the most recent Freedom House “Freedom of the Press 2017” data for the five countries that had Freedom House data, but that are missing RSF data. Although RSF uses the same 0-100 scale for its data, the distribution of RSF country scores sits systematically lower on the scale than does Freedom House’s. To account for this mismatch, MCC normalizes Freedom House scores for the five countries in the following manner:

  • MCC identifies each missing country’s percentile rank in the Freedom House global dataset, and then finds the score that would be at the corresponding percentile in the global RSF dataset (using the method of linear interpolation equivalent to the method used by Microsoft Excel in the function Percentile.Inc), and assigns that score to the country.
  • Once this matching has been completed for each of the missing countries, and these normalized scores are added to the global RSF dataset, MCC then uses these scores as “Press” in the above equation to calculate the Freedom of Information scores and then percentile ranks for each income group.
  • For example, Solomon Islands has a Freedom House score of 27 in 2017, which puts in at the 76th percentile in the global Freedom House dataset. The score at the 76th percentile of the global RSF dataset used in FY20 was 24.09. Therefore Solomon Island’s normalized Press score was 24.09 for FY20.


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  • 6. NetBlocks 2020. Internet cut in Ethiopia amid unrest following killing of singer. NetBlocks Mapping Net Freedom. Woodhams, S. & Migliano, S. 2020. The Global Cost of Internet Shutdowns in 2019. Fletcher, Terry, & Hayes-Birchler, Andria. 2020. Comparing Measures of Internet Censorship: Analyzing the Tradeoffs between Expert Analysis and Remote Measurement. Proceedings of 2020 Data for Policy Conference. Raveendran, N., & Leberknight, C.S. 2018. Internet Censorship and Economic Impacts: A Case Study of Internet Outages in India. Proceedings of the Twenty-fourth Americas Conference on Information Systems. West, D.M. 2016. Internet Shutdowns cost countries $2.4 billion last year. Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings.