FOI Notes: Country Reports, Open Data, US States, More

26 February 2015

Canada: “Alberta Premier Jim Prentice has personally ordered that documents from all general freedom of information requests be publicly posted, despite serious concerns from the civil servants responsible for implementing the new policy, CBC News has learned.” according to a CBC report that highlights negative reactions to the move.

Oregon: Incoming governor Kate Brown announces plans to post a public records log containing the names and identifications of requestors along with the records released.

IFTI News: The UN Environmental Programme has extended until March 31 the deadline for comments on its access-to-information policy. For more information see here.

Twitter: “Transparency reports on trial: New front for free speech?” Jeff John Roberts writes about the disclosure reports from Twitter, Google and other media companies disclosing government demands for information.

Thailand: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha gave the keynote address at a recent l seminar on the implementation of the Official Information Act B.E. 2540 (1997) at which awards were presented, according to an article in Thai Visa News.

India: The RTI Act is fast turning into a weapon for government employees to settle professional scores in Himachal Pradesh, according to a report in WebIndia123.

India: “Getting access to information under the Right to Information Act in Uttar Pradesh may soon be a lot easier. Promising a near complete overhaul of Uttar Pradesh Information Commission, Jawed Usmani, UP’s newly appointed chief information commissioner said on Wednesday he plans to implement the Right to Information Act more effectively in the state,” begins an article in The Times of India.

EU Ombudsman: Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly adopts a Code of Conduct for the Ombudsman that addresses transparency and ethical conduct.

EU Ombudsman: The ombudsman writes to the European Commission suggesting more active EU involvement in the Open Government Partnership.

Open Data: “Five ways open data can boost democracy around the world,” an article in The Guardian by Jonathan Gray, director of policy and research at Open Knowledge.

United States: A blog post on FOIA fees by the Office of Government Information Services. During fiscal year (FY) 2013, federal agencies granted 5,140 requests to waive fees, according to foia.gov; for context, that means that of the 678,391 FOIA requests agencies processed in FY 2013, fee waivers were granted in fewer than 1 percent of the cases.

South Carolina: “MY LAST NERVE: FOIA Bill Would Allow State Agencies to Take You to Court for `Annoying Them,’ ” an article by Jamie Murguia.

Connecticut: Gov. Dan Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and state Comptroller Kevin Lembo signed the FOI Pledge proffered by the non-profit advocacy group Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information. Only 24 of 187 state legislators – about 12 percent – have signed the pledge, according to an article in the Connecticut Post.

United States: Under the state law in Missouri, writes John Wright in the Colombia Daily Tribune, the University of Missouri is shielding course syllabi from state transparency laws because they are copyrighted.

United States: The Department of Homeland Security launches a new service for checking on the status of FOIA requests.

United States: Hear a radio show about the US request site MuckRock.

United Kingdom: Nick Cohen writes in The Guardian, “Open government? Don’t make me laugh.”

Report: Principles into Practice: Transparency a report by the US Millennium Challenge Corporation. Conclusion:

MCC’s work in the field of transparency has shown that these efforts are not easy. Releasing high-quality information and data to the public requires the right leadership, the right organization culture, the right staff, and the right business processes. Making the information accessible requires understanding demand and use, as well as developing different platforms and formats for information and data sharing. Yet despite these challenges, MCC has also found that there is value in these efforts. Knowing that its results will be communicated consistently and regularly with the public motivates MCC and partners to uphold higher standards of accountability. Preparing data for public release requires MCC to systematically collect and organize information, leading to improved internal systems. Most importantly, ongoing effort to improve its track record on transparency and to document the results have contributed to rich organizational learning that extends beyond transparency into all other areas of MCC’s work.

United States: The Dallas Morning News committed a team of six journalists for a year to mystery shop 113 branches of government on how well they followed the state’s vital open records law.

Open Data: The Sunlight Foundation provides a crowd-sourced spreadsheet with illustrative examples of how open initiatives and digital transparency projects are having a meaningful effect on our societies and requests continuing submissions here.

 

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