What NEED does this meet?
Central place to look for information other people have uncovered via FOI. Will be well indexed by search engine, so information becomes more public in general. For people who make FOI requests, provides a convenient place to track the progress of the request, and to put responses so you can give people links to them.
What is the APPROACH?
Anyone can set up a Freedom of Information request. Website provides simple URLs for all requests and responses, and searching of them by free text or by department. When making a request, advice is given on how to write it, and the site sends it to the department/quango/authority. When you get a response, can upload it to the site – after the statutory 28 working days we would send an email to ask if a response was received. If responses are late or unsatisfactory, site offers guidance on taking to the Information Commissioner.
What are the BENEFITS to people?
A repository of useful government information, all of which somebody felt was important enough to actively ask for. Opens up government to people, making it more transparent. As well as letting people criticise government, it would also show the good things that government is doing.
What is the COMPETITION?
Friends of the Earth have a system for sending requests, but do not provide an archive of them, which is vital. Our site can also be easier to use, and they would probably collaborate with the project. The book “Your Right to Know” describes in detail how to make requests, but the site would complement that rather than compete with it. There’s also a similar FOI archive service to this in America which we could learn from.
What BUDGETS & LOGISTICS are required?
The complex part is the uploading of responses to requests, which could be in numerous electronic document formats or on paper. We’d need lots of advice to people on how to OCR documents, or to give summaries if only image versions can be uploaded. Maybe let other people contribute OCR of images. Code to convert Word documents, PDFs etc. to text. Other than that it is a straightforward mySociety site. Say two people working for three months to make a reasonable version.