Australian Group Creates Website for Requestors

30 November 2012

The Right to Know website has been created in Australia, adding to the steady growth of such sites worldwide.

About 20 similar sites now exist.

The newest site, run by the Open Australia Foundation, “aims to make the process easy for people who lack training in information law” and to ”shame” public servants who are overly obstructive. It will help requesters make freedom of information requests, from up to 361 Commonwealth agencies and authorities. It is based on the model of the UK project WhatDoTheyKnow.com created by mySociety using Alaveteli software.

The new site adds to a growing number of such sites. There are 11 using the same Alaveteli software and five rely on other systems, according to a mySociety list. About a dozen others requester sites are “under development or consideration” around the world, according to the list.

One of the newest is in Uruguay. (See FreedomInfo.org report.) In the United States, several federal agencies recently created a joint FOI website. (See FreedomInfo.org report.)  Canada recently said it was developing a pilot portal. (See FreedomInfo.org report.)

There were about a dozen such sites in November 20122, when FreedomInfo.org did a report on requester sites here.

Helping Citizens a Major Goal

One of the foundation’s volunteers and directors, Henare Degan, said, “We’re really keen for everyday Australians to use FOI law: ordinary people who may not even know they have this right to make a request for information.”

“We want it to be an everyday thing to do,” he said, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Federal ministers and agencies received 24,764 FOI requests in 2011-12, of which about four in five involved people seeking information about themselves, Degan said. About 90 per cent of the other requests were made by journalists or people with deep experience in FOI.

The website will show the document trail for each FOI request made through it.

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