Author: Phil Rodgers
What NEED does this meet?
UK Freedom of Information legislation allows individuals to make requests for information to various public organisations and receive responses. However, there is a bewildering array of different organisations that you can make requests to, and there is no straightforward way of finding out what requests others have made, and what response they received. This proposal is to apply social networking to freedom of information.
What is the APPROACH?
Build a website that allows users to:
– send an FoI request to a particular organisation, along the lines of WriteToThem
– record the request they’ve sent
– record the response they receive
– search/browse, comment on and tag other requests and responses
– contact others interested in particular issues
One way to populate this might be to send FoI requests to various organisations asking them what FoI requests they’ve received and what the responses were. If it achieved critical mass, then FoI requestors might ask the organisations to post their responses directly to the system.
There might be some copyright issues, but that hasn’t stopped you building TheyWorkForYou.
What are the BENEFITS to people?
This would apply the benefits of social networking to freedom of information, promote greater transparency, and generally allow people to find out interesting things more easily. FoI is an important part of democracy, and something like this could make it much more effective.
What is the COMPETITION?
There doesn’t appear to be anything similar at the moment. If there were multiple such systems, they would probably tend to merge. This seems a good fit for MySociety because it’s all about enabling engagement with government and public organisations.
What BUDGETS & LOGISTICS are required?
Many of the issues involved are already reasonably well understood. It probably wouldn’t be more than an order of magnitude more complex than WriteToThem. A major challenge would be posting the responses, but users could help with this, and in the longer term organisations might be trained to do it directly.