A Thousand Questions

We love to hear that someone has taken our code and is launching a new website. But it is even better to see that site become fully established.

How can you tell when a site has reached that milestone? Hard to say – but we reckon that processing over 1,000 Freedom of Information requests is a pretty good sign that an Alaveteli install has succeeded.

Ki Mit Tud in Hungary passed that mark back in April; in Spain, Tu Derecho A Saber has also dealt with just over 1,000 requests. And in New Zealand, FYI.org.nz is also celebrating the big thou, under the care of Rowan Crawford.

https://fyi.org.nz/

We made Alaveteli to be used in any jurisdiction, no matter what Freedom of Information laws are in place, and no matter what the prevailing culture – and we are always fascinated to know how the resulting sites are impacting their respective communities. When it comes to New Zealand, some aspects are familiar; some are distinct to the region.

Rowan was kind enough to tell us a little about how it’s been, watching those first thousand FOI requests roll through FYI.org.nz.

How is it running the site? Do you have a volunteer team helping you, like we do with WhatDoTheyKnow in the UK?

    “It’s just me at the moment — it hasn’t been a high burden at all. Generally things “just work”.
    “As the Admin, I do get unusual questions directed at me sometimes, that strain my knowledge of the law. Fortunately I have several lawyer contacts on Twitter I can run to for help!”

Is there anything we should know about the background to FOI in NZ? 

“The Official Information Act came in to force almost exactly thirty years ago, on 1 July 1983. It is used extensively, though just how much is hard to say.

“The only body which reports OIA statistics is the Ombudsman, which only reports the numbers of complaints – about 1200 in 2012. I know journalists use it routinely.”

How has NZ reacted to having its own Right To Know site?

“The response from people using it has been very, very positive. The press haven’t covered it that much, but bloggers have. One measure of success is that it has its own section in the Ombudsman’s FAQ.

Can you recall any particularly noteable requests that have gone through the site?

“I have an affection for a couple of successful ones from the police: they replied to one request with their interrogation manual, and to another with information on how much they paid informants.”

How are you finding Alaveteli?

“Installing it has improved hugely since the first time I tried. The current method of theming works pretty well, too.

“There are several things on my road map: integrating documentcloud instead of the current HTML conversion, using S3 for resources, and a mobile version.”

What kind of user numbers are you seeing?

“There are just under 500 users registered in the system, and we’re getting 5,000 unique visitors a month. It’s growing month by month by about 15% at the moment — who knows how long that will keep up!”

Run a Freedom of Information website

Rowan makes it look pretty easy!

We won’t pretend that you can run a Freedom of Information site with no effort at all, but we have made it as simple as we possibly can. We have the code, we have the documentation, and most important of all, we have a community waiting to give you support and advice.

If you’re interested in finding out more, drop us a line at international@mysociety.org.

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