Our next meet-up, on 3rd September, will focus on Freedom of Information (FOI). We really care about FOI at mySociety, which is why we created the FOI request filer WhatDoTheyKnow for UK citizens back in 2008, and Alaveteli thereafter for international use.
So, we thought, why not host a meet-up to discuss FOI technologies, research and legislation in the UK and beyond?
We’re delighted to be joined at this meet-up by the following guest speakers:-
Maurice Frankel: Maurice is director of the UK Campaign for Freedom of Information. He has worked with them since it was set up in 1984, and has been its director since 1987.
Maurice will talk about the possible government restrictions on the right of access to information in the UK; the problems caused by the Freedom of Information Act’s poor approach to public service contracts and the surprising limitations which the courts have imposed on the ministerial veto.
Marietta Le: Marietta is from the Hungarian investigative journalism NGO Atlatszo.
Atlatzso is a watchdog NGO and online news site for investigative journalism to promote transparency and freedom of information (FOI) in Hungary. They run various websites including KiMitTud, a freedom of information request generator for the general public, which runs using the Alaveteli platform.
KiMitTud was launched in May 2012 and has helped people send nearly 3000 freedom of information requests so far. Atlatszo’s investigative journalists have been using it as a tool to dig up new stories and obtain important evidence in corruption cases. However, the success of Hungary’s Freedom of Information Act has led to the Hungarian government introducing a restrictive amendment to the law; a measure that is being challenged at the moment by a joint initiative of media outlets and transparency NGOs.
Marietta will join us to speak about setting up an FOI site in Hungary using Alaveteli and the current threats to freedom of information in Hungary, following the recent restrictive amendment to the FOI law.
Savita Bailur and Tom Longley: Earlier this year mySociety instigated a research project to look at the place that Alaveteli and other FOI online technologies might have in creating cultures of transparency and accountability.
We want to address this top level question: “In what circumstances, if any, can tools like Alaveteli be shown to have measurable impacts on the ability of citizens to exert power over underperforming institutions?”
To address this, researchers Savita and Tom have focused on three areas: a literature review to see what research is already out there, in-depth interviews with people who have installed FOI technologies in many different countries, and the compilation of a list of critical success factors. Read more about their research here.
Savita and Tom are more than halfway through their research, and we’re delighted that they’ll present their preliminary findings at this meet-up.
We’ll also discuss the latest developments on WhatDoTheyKnow, and Alaveteli developers (as well as other mySociety team members) will be around to answer any questions.
There’ll be plenty of pizza and beer to go around too, so what could be better?
Hope to see you there!
To see where we’ll be holding our next meet-ups over the coming months, check out our page on Lanyrd.
Photo by Paul Keller (CC)