Freedom of Information Indicator

Description

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

Methodology

  1. Reports without Borders’ (RSF) World Press Freedom Index, https://rsf.org/en/ranking/2020. Questions regarding this indicator may be directed to index@rsf.org 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, http://www.rti-rating.org/. Questions regarding this indicator may be directed to Toby Mendel at toby@law-democracy.org 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, https://www.accessnow.org/keepiton/. Questions regarding this indicator may be directed to info@accessnow.org 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.

Source

Footnotes
  • 1. Islam, Roumeen. 2006. Does More Transparency Go Along With Better Governance? Economics and Politics, vol. 18, no. 2, pp 121-167.
  • 2. Ahrend, Rudiger. 2002. Press freedom, human capital and corruption. DELTA Working Paper No. 2002-11. Bhattacharyya, Sambi and Roland Hodler. 2012. Media freedom and democracy: Complements or substitutes in the fight against corruption? CSAE Working Paper WPS/2012-02. Brunetti, Ayno and Beatrice Weder. 2003. A free press is bad news for corruption. Journal of Public Economics. 87(7-8): 1801-1824. Chowdhury, Shyamal K. 2004. The effect of democracy and press freedom on corruption: an empirical test. Economics Letters. 85(1): 93-101. Dirienzi, Cassandra, Joyti Das, Kathrn T. Cort and Joh Burbridge Jr. 2011. Corruption and the Role of Information. Journal of International Business Studies Vol. 38, No. 2, pp. 320-332. Freille, Sebastian, M. Emranul Haque, and Richard Kneller. 2007. A contribution to the empirics of press freedom and corruption. European Journal of Political Economy. 23(4): 838-862. International Monetary Fund. 2001. IMF Survey Supplement 30, September, Washington, D.C. Islam, Roumeen. 2006. Does More Transparency Go Along with Better Governance? Economics and Politics Vol. 18, No. 2, pp 121-167. Neuman, L (ed). 2002. Access to Information: A Key to Democracy. Atlanta: The Carter Center. Reinikka, Ritva and Jakob Svensson. 2003. The power of information: Evidence from a newspaper campaign to reduce capture. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 3239. Roy, Sanjukta. Media Development and Political Stability: An Analysis of sub-Saharan Africa. Washington, D.C.: The Media Map Project.
  • 3. Arsenault, Amelia and Shawn Powers. 2010. Media Map: Review of Literature. Washington, D.C.: The Media Map Project. Coyne, Christopher J. and Peter T. Leeson. 2004. Read all about it! Understanding the role of media in economic development. Kyklos. 57(1): 21-44. DiRienzi, Cassandra, Jayoti Das, Kathryn T. Cort, and John Burbridge Jr. 2007. Corruption and the role of information. Journal of International Business Studies. 38(2): 320-332. Drabek, Zdenek and Warren Payne. 2002. The impact of transparency on foreign direct investment. Journal of Economic Integration. 17(4): 777-810. Gelos, R. Gaston and Shang-Jin Wei. 2002. Transparency and international investor behavior. National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 9260. Cambridge. Guseva, Marina, Mounira Nakaa, Anne-Sophie Novel, Kirsii Pekkala, Bachir Souberou, and Sami Stouli. 2008. Press Freedom and Development: An Analysis of Correlations between Freedom of the Press and the Different Dimensions of Development, Poverty, Governance and Peace. Paris: United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization. International Monetary Fund. 2001. IMF Survey Supplement 30. Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund. Neuman, L. (Ed.). 2002. Access to Information: A Key to Democracy. Atlanta: The Carter Center. Roumeen. 2006. Does more transparency go along with better governance? Economics and Politics. 18(2): 121-167. Roy, Sanjukta. 2011. Overview Report: Measuring Media Development. Washington, D.C.: The Media Map Project. Stiglitz, Joseph. 2002. Transparency in government. In R. Islam, S. Djankov & C. McLeish (Eds.), The Right to Tell: The Role of Mass Media in Economic Development (pp. 27-44). Washington, D.C.: The World Bank. Susman-Peña, Tara. 2012. Healthy Media, Vibrant Societies: How Strengthening the Media Can Boost Development in sub-Saharan Africa. Washington, D.C.: The Media Map Project.
  • 4. Ansari, M. M. 2008. Impact of right to information on development: A perspective on India’s recent experiences. Invited lecture at UNESCO World Headquarters. Paris, France. Bellver, Ana and Daniel Kaufmann. 2005. Transparenting transparency: Initial empirics and policy applications. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank. Besley, Timothy and Robin Burgess. 2000. The political economy of government responsiveness: Theory and evidence from India. Development Economics Discussion Paper DEDPS 28. London: Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, London School of Economics and Political Science. Besley, Timothy, Robin Burgess, and Andrea Prat. 2002. Mass media and political accountability. In R. Islam, S. Djankov & C. McLeish (Eds.), The Right to Tell: The Role of Mass Media in Economic Development (pp. 45-60). Washington, D.C.: The World Bank. Norris, Pippa. 2008. The role of the free press in promoting democratization, good governance and human development. In M. Harvey (Ed.), Section 2 of Media Matters: Perspectives on Advancing Governance and Development from the Global Forum for Media Development. (pp. 66-75). Internews Europe. Roberts, Alasdair. 2002. Access to government information: An overview of issues. In Access to Information: A Key to Democracy. Atlanta: The Carter Center. Shirazi, Farid, Ojelanki Ngwenyama, and Olga Morawczynski. 2010. ICT expansion and the digital divide in democratic freedoms: An analysis of the impact of ICT expansion, education and ICT filtering on democracy. Telematics and Informatics. 27(1): 21-31. Stiglitz, Joseph. 1999. On liberty, the right to know, and public discourse: The role of transparency in public life. Oxford Amnesty Lecture at Oxford University, United Kingdom.
  • 5. Bandyopadhyay, Sanghamitra. 2009. Knowledge-based economic development: Mass media dn the weightless economy. Discussion paper no. 74. Distributional Analysis Research Programme, STICERD. London: London School of Economics and Political Science. Deane, James. 2008. Why the media matters: The relevance of the media to tackling global poverty. In M. Harvey (Ed.), Section 1 of Media Matters: Perspectives on Advancing Governance and Development from the Global Forum for Media Development (pp. 35-44). Internews Europe. Kenny, Charles. 2002. Information and communication technologies for direct poverty alleviation: Costs and benefits. Development Policy Review. 20(2): 141-157. Norris, Pippa and Dieter Zinnbauer. 2002. Giving voice to the voiceless: Good governance, human development & mass communications. Background paper for the UNDP Human Development Report, New York: United Nations Development Programme. Sen, Amartya. 1999. Development as Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Shirazi, Farid. 2010. The emancipatory role of information and communication technology: A case study of internet content filtering within Iran. Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society. 8(1): 57-84. United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. 2000. Urban poverty alleviation. Paper presented at the Regional High-level Meeting in preparation for Instanbul+5 for Asia and the Pacific: Hangzhou, China. United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. 2006. Presentation paper: Media, development, and poverty eradication. Paper presented at World Press Freedom Day: Sri Lanka.
  • 6. NetBlocks 2020. Internet cut in Ethiopia amid unrest following killing of singer. NetBlocks Mapping Net Freedom. https://netblocks.org/reports/internet-cut-in-ethiopia-amid-unrestfollowing-killing-of-singer-pA25Z28b. Woodhams, S. & Migliano, S. 2020. The Global Cost of Internet Shutdowns in 2019. Top10VPN.com. 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. http://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3967398. 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.