As with all Alaveteli sites, KiMitTud makes it easy for citizens to submit a request for information from any publicly-funded body. This request is published online, and so are any responses, creating a public archive of information.
Many Alaveteli sites around the world have been set up by transparency organisations, or even just interested individuals. KiMitTud, on the other hand, is run by Atlatszo.hu, an investigative journalism site.
Journalists often use Freedom of Information to obtain the facts they need, and in 2012, Atlatszo.hu identified that Alaveteli would help their own journalists to file and organise their requests. At the same time, it would provide a useful service to the general public.
Atlatszo.hu could have developed their own software, but they wanted a solution that was easy to install and maintain.
Alaveteli is a complete platform that can be installed by anyone with a little technical knowledge. Its community of users around the world help contribute to its continuous improvement. Maintenance and updates are overseen by mySociety, so installers only have to ensure that they are running the latest version.
Atlatszo.hu also liked the fact that Alaveteli would support journalists and citizens when they sent FOI requests. For those who are new to the concept of FOI, it helps format requests correctly. And everyone has a use for Alaveteli’s tracking, which alerts users when they don’t receive a response within the set time as dictated by the country’s FOI laws.
Because all the correspondence around the request is published online, the information can be shared with everybody, allowing for public discussions about information that has been released—and, crucially, requests that have been refused.
The presence of Alaveteli on such a high-profile site has helped to educate Hungary’s citizens about their Freedom of Information Act, and popularise its use. There’s been a particular emphasis on questions about public spending, and freedom of information has become part of the public discourse.
Atlatszo.hu’s work with FOI requests inspired many journalists, and the team started to run workshops to educate them, along with NGOs and activist groups about the use of this tool. These cover the legal, journalistic, and technical aspects of the Freedom of Information Act.
As Atlatszo.hu journalist Katalin Erdélyi said in an interview to the Committee to Protect Journalists:
I was glad because I realised the potential and how it would help me get all the information I longed for […] I alone have filed around 500 requests since launch.
As of 2015, more than 6,700 requests have been filed through the Hungarian Alaveteli instance.
We’ve been delighted to see KiMitTud’s success, and especially the role it has taken in outreach to other user groups. We’re also grateful to Atlatszo.hu for sharing their experiences with the wider Alaveteli community, who can only benefit from their experience in both this form of publicity, and in providing the site for journalists’ usage.