Business - Written by Anthony D. Williams on Monday, March 9, 2009 21:38 - 1 Comment
What Do They Know? Making Freedom of Information Requests Easy
The right to make freedom of information requests is in enshrined in most democratic countries (Wikipedia says 70 countries have such legislation). But how often is that right actually invoked? My guess is that it’s vastly underutilized and that most members of the public would be surprised to know what they could find out if only they asked.
Part of the issue is that few people are aware of the appropriate process for filing a freedom of information request and probably assume that effort and time required would outweigh the ultimate benefits. That’s why I really like WhatDoTheyKnow, a MySociety project that strips away all of the hassles and uncertainties of filing an FOI request. Visitors to the site simply pick a department, type a request, and mysociety handles the rest!
Residents of Edinburgh in the UK, for example, have used WhatDoTheyKnow to successfully request information about things like:
- How much did it cost to repair the road surface in New Street on the 26th and 27th November 2008?
- How many council houses have been sold under Right to buy in the city centre since May 2006?
- How many CCTV cameras operated by the various councils are there in Scotland?
- How many street traders licences are currently in operation within the City Centre?
Answers to these queries remain on the site so that future visitors needn’t burden the Edinburgh council with redundant requests for information. If you see a topic of interest you can always set up an RSS alert so that you get notified when something of interest comes in.
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