Public FOI: WhatDoTheyKnow and central government

Every quarter the Cabinet Office releases Freedom of Information statistics for a collection of central government ministries, departments and agencies. This provides a benchmark for understanding how requests made from WhatDoTheyKnow relate to FOI requests made through other methods. From 2017, mySociety started retrospectively tracking the proportion of FOI requests sent via WhatDoTheyKnow to central government using a minisite —  https://research.mysociety.org/sites/foi/ —  that explores the data.

This report explores what had and hadn’t changed in the last few years, as well as the number of requests made through WhatDoTheyKnow Pro — a new service being piloted that allows embargos of the results of FOI requests for a period — with the goal of bringing more people making FOI requests professionally (such as journalists) into the system and leading to more raw results being made available after the conclusion of a project. 

We found that:

  • WhatDoTheyKnow accounted for between 15-17% of audited bodies and between 18-21% of ministerial departament FOI requests.
  • While the proportion of requests have grown most years since 2010, there was no real change from 2017 to 2018.
  • Requests made to central government via WhatDoTheyKnow only make-up around 9-10% of all requests sent via WhatDoTheyKnow in 2018. 
  • WhatDoTheyKnow Pro requests made up 1% of FOI requests to central government — but most requests using this service went to other areas of the public sector.

You can read the whole report online, download the PDF, or explore the data.

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