FOI Notes: Russia, Africa, Open Data, OGP, US, Germany, India, More

7 August 2014

Russia: Russia’s Federal Migration Service is seeking to deport the American wife of Ivan Y. Pavlov, the founder of the Institute for Freedom of Information Development, the New York Times reported. His wife, Jennifer Gaspar, has lived in Russia for a decade, working for a variety of nongovernmental organizations, including groups focused on human rights issues and one that raised money for the Hermitage Museum. In a related development, Edward J. Snowden, who exposed US secret documents and then fled to Russia, has been granted a three-year residence permit there, according to another Times article.

Africa: A webcast of an Aug. 4 forum in Washington: Resources for the Future: Partnering with Civil Society for Transparency and Accountability in Africa, sponsored by the Open Society Foundations. Speakers were:

  • George Soros, Founder and Chairman, Open Society Foundations
  • Joseph N. Boakai, Vice President of Liberia
  • Heather Higginbottom, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, United States Department of State
  • Mojanku Gumbi, Trustee, Thabo Mbeki Foundation
  • Mo Ibrahim, Co-Founder and Chair, Mo Ibrahim Foundation
  • Ali Idrissa, National Coordinator, Publiez Ce Que Vous Payez Niger
  • Daniel Kaufmann, President, Natural Resource Governance Institute
  • Simon Taylor, Co-Founder and Director, Global Witness (Closing Remarks)

Africa: “Africa: Transparency taking hold,” writes George Ingram, chair of the Publish What You Fund U.S. Advisory Committee & Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. 

Open Data: “In 2010, only a handful of countries maintained data sites. In 2014, there were at least 56,” according to an article by Keith Ross in International Business Times. His sources were Data.gov and the Open Government Partnership. Launch dates collected from best available source. Portals with no total count of datasets were not included.

Open Data: Alex Howard in Tech Republic writes states that focusing on publishing open data with economic value shouldn’t preclude or take too much focus away from digitizing and releasing data with other societal value.

Open Data: A comparison of the datasets that are mentioned in the G8 Open Data Action Plans by Deirdre Lee, Research Associate, eGovernment Domain (DEG), Insight-NUIG, Galway, Ireland.

United States: A report by Human Rights Watch: “With Liberty to Monitor All: How Large-Scale US Surveillance is Harming Journalism, Law, and American Democracy.”

Book: Transparency 2.0: Digital Data and Privacy in a Wired World, by Charles N. Davis (Editor), David Cuillier (Editor).

Transparency 2.0 investigates a host of emerging issues around the collision of information and personal privacy in a digital world. Delving into the key legal concepts of information access and privacy, such as practical obscurity, the U.S. Supreme Court’s central purpose test, and Europe’s emerging concept of the «right to be forgotten», contributors examine issues regarding online access to court records, social media, access to email, and complications from massive government data dumps by Wikileaks, Edward Snowden, and others. They offer solutions to resolving conflict and look to the future as a new generation learns to live in an open digital world where the line between information and privacy blurs ever faster. This book is ideal for anyone interested in the legal battlefield over access and privacy, as well as for classes in the law of the media and First Amendment, privacy, journalism, and public affairs.

Germany: Open Knowledge Foundation Deutschland has released a video (in German) explaining FOI and the German FOI portal, FragDenStaat.de.

OGP: The OGP’s Independent Reporting Mechanism publishes the IRM Procedures Manual.

OGP: Remarks by Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit

Social Accountability: Staff members of the Global Partnership for Social Accountability begin a series of articles on topics basically around the question of what constitutes a politically aware strategic approach to social accountability?

United States: The Government Accountability Office issues a report (PDF) about problems with a website. ?USASpending.gov , designed to track government spending, a BusinessWeek article says.

Corruption/FOI: Maira Martini of Transparency International addresses the question of whether there is evidence that RTI laws reduce corruption. The summary of the answer:

Empirical evidence of the impact of RTI laws remains scarce. In general, several studies have found that access to information is positively correlated to control of corruption, but the actual impact of RTI laws seems to depend on a series of other factors. As demonstrated by several studies, the RTI law alone can have a positive impact and help in the solution of specific cases, but it is unlikely to bring sustainable change if not effectively implemented and accompanied of other measures, such as guaranteed freedom of press and association, effective checks and balances mechanisms, including the prosecution and dismissal of public officials found to be involved in corruption, and coherent policy responses to problems detected in service delivery. 

Wikimedia: The Wikimedia Foundation issues it’s first transparency report. The report criticizes the European Union court decision on right-to-be-forgotten. Among other things it provide details about content alteration and takedown requests, copyright takedown requests and requests for user data.

India: Fun read. Vinita Deshmukh, a consulting editor of Moneylife, writes about frivolous RTI queries.

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