Image by Elena Penkova - Sophia Square and the golden-roofed cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, against a cloudy sky

In 2014, Ukraine saw its president ousted in a violent revolution, followed by the formation of a new government.

Living through these unsettled times may have been hard, but they provided the ideal backdrop for the launch of Dostup do Pravdy (“Access to the Truth”), a Freedom of Information site based on our Alaveteli platform.

Ukraine had had an Access to Information law, at least in name, since 1996. But in practice, years of corruption had been hidden behind a complex system of bureaucracy.

Post-revolution, public thirst for information was high. Access to it suddenly became easier: the new regime had little concern about releasing information that related to their predecessors.

As time went on, and the government settled into its second term, Freedom of Information continued to be a valuable tool for a population still learning to trust its government.

News agency and and FOI site: a match made in heaven?

Homepage of Dostup Pravda

Centre UA set up Dostup do Pravdy in collaboration with pravda.com.ua, the biggest online news site in Ukraine.

This link to an established news outlet means that journalists can use the site to make requests and research news stories, which in turn are publicised by Pravda — and in fact, they employ one journalist to do just that.

One side effect of this set-up is better public understanding of FOI laws among the wider population, many of whom go on to use the site themselves.

Dostup do Pravdy have made some modifications to the Alaveteli codebase to suit their own aims: one significant change is that users can navigate via ‘authority statistics’ – that is, they can see at a glance which authorities are proving the best and worst at responding to requests for information.

Tangible results

As of July 2016, Dostup do Pravdy has processed more than 12,000 requests and has a reasonably high success rate in receiving responses from the authorities.

Each month, the site has around 13,000 visitors, and in excess of 30,000 page views.

When useful or interesting information is released, it can cause significant spikes in their traffic. Information about when museums in Kiev offer free entry brought many thousands of new users, since it was not previously available online.

Image: Elena Penkova (CC)