THOMAS RILEY was instrumental in the introduction of a Freedom to Information Act in Canada. He has since been approached by other countries wanting to adopt similar legislation for his expertise in this field. Yesterday, he spoke to the Sunday Morning Post about what Hong Kong could look forward to if a freedom of information policy was adopted. ''The right to government information is not only a cornerstone of democracy but a common coin for the currency of business and all sectors of society,'' Mr Riley, an international consultant on privacy laws, said. ''This particular bill contains all the essential elements of good information law, including a stated right of access to government documents, the right of privacy, a narrow defining of information that is exempt from release as well as an independent appeal mechanism. ''The United States has had a Freedom of Information Act for more than 25 years. So successful was their law that in 1992 alone there were approximately 521,000 requests made under the law. Of these, 91 per cent of all documents were released and a further eight per cent received a portion of the documents they requested. In Canada, there have been more than 30,000 requested since the law was enacted in 1983,'' he said. ''This has not only enhanced the democratic process, by allowing people to know what their government is doing, but it has created a climate where people are better able to resolve problems they might have been having with the government. ''Additionally, through access to government documents, businesses have been able to gain invaluable background information on a range of subjects that matter to them - be it economic analysis of different sectors, background reports on industry, environmental or safety reports. ''The use of the law to make requests for information can have practical benefits for Hong Kong people and the Government. It can add to the economic health of the community through the sharing of the vast amount of commercial, economic and related information held by government,'' Mr Riley said. The sharing of this information by the Hong Kong Government could only assist in ensuring the territory's economy continued on its current course and improving it in the process, he said. ''Information is now the common currency of our world. It is imperative the Hong Kong legislature pass the bill so it can be in the main stream of this knowledge growth. ''China is developing a national information policy so it can be part of this world. Freedom of information laws will enhance the country's evolution towards a new market economy.''