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Reasons for the poor provision of information by the government: public opinion

Johanna Gunnlaugsdottir (Department of Information Science, University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland)

Records Management Journal

ISSN: 0956-5698

Article publication date: 18 July 2016




The purpose of this paper is to present, on the one hand, the findings of a survey conducted during 2012 in Iceland and, on the other hand, the results of interviews held in 2015 concerning why it was felt that the authorities withheld information either about subjects of general public interest or about public expenditures.


A survey questionnaire was sent in March 2012 to almost 2,000 Icelanders randomly selected from the National Registry. The response rate was almost 67 per cent. As to the interviews held in 2015, these were with individuals who were known to understand well the government’s actions, both as to provision of information to the public and the opposite, suppression of information. The interviewees were chosen purposively. The survey was modelled on other research and resources concerning open public information and other research that had examined trust towards public authorities and the influence of freedom of information acts on government information practices.


The research revealed that both participants in the questionnaire survey and the six interviewees in the later study felt that information was kept secret for a variety of reasons. Most felt that information was kept under wraps by the government, both about subjects of general public interest or about public expenditures, and that both transparency and traceability were less than sufficient in the public administration of Iceland.

Practical implications

The results could be of value to public authorities who want to improve the provision of information and practices according to the freedom of information act. They could also bring diverse and valuable opportunities to the profession of records managers as to documentation and registration, as well as others who practice information management.


The survey adds valuable information and fulfils a need for a better understanding of why public authorities suppress the provision of information in Iceland. Although the research cited was limited to Iceland, the findings may be of value also to public authorities and researchers in the Western World, Australia and New Zealand to give a few examples where the culture and the practice of government may not be that different, as well as in other countries. The two studies can, therefore, lay the foundation for further research into the field.



Gunnlaugsdottir, J. (2016), "Reasons for the poor provision of information by the government: public opinion", Records Management Journal, Vol. 26 No. 2, pp. 185-205.



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