FOI Notes: US, Climate Change, India, Malawi, Open Data, UK, Bahamas, France, Success Story, Fun Quote

15 December 2016

United States: The Department of Justice is requesting public comment on the draft ‘‘Release to One, Release to All’’ policy, which was prepared by the Office of Information Policy. The draft policy contains exceptions to accommodate agency difficulties implement  release and offers two different options for the timing of when documents should be posted online, including a five-day delay.

Climate Change: Bringing together the open government and climate communities offers an opportunity to develop new strategies that enhance accountable and inclusive climate policy, says World Resources Institute research analyst Elizabeth Moses.

India: An NGO has come out with an exhaustive RTI portal, according to a media report. “A lot of organizations do work on RTI. However, there is no single website that gives the information on all the details about the RTI. On our website, we have put up the RTI Act and even the rules in all languages. There is a link to all information commissions and all organizations that work towards the RTI Act. There are important SC and HC judgments related to RTI Act, motivational songs and talks by various people. Information will also be provided of various workshops on RTI that people can look forward to attend. We are trying to make the website as live as we can make it,” said Bhaskar Prabhu of Mahiti Adhikar Manch.

Malawi: The government “created excuses to derail the process  of  passing the Access to Information (ATI) Bill with amendments which the  Legal Affairs and Media Committees suggested after consultations,” reports Wanga Gwede in The Nyasa Times.

Open Data: The Governance Data Alliance’s new research report, “In the Eye of the Beholder: When is Governance Data Good Enough,” is based on a “snap poll of governance data users.” The three identified messages from the research are: emphasize local content, make content actionable and improve credibility, particularly by make methods transparent.

Transparency Research: “Scaling accountability through vertically integrated civil society policy monitoring and advocacy,” a working paper by American University professor Jonathan Fox. “This working paper argues that the growing field of transparency, participation and accountability (TPA) needs a conceptual reboot, to address the limited traction gained so far on the path to accountability. To inform more strategic approaches and to identify the drivers of more sustainable institutional change, fresh analytical work is needed.”

Bahamas: “On the defensive over the much-anticipated Freedom of Information Act, Prime Minister Perry Christie yesterday called criticism over his administration’s lengthy track to tabling the legislation unfair,” reports The Tribune.

UK: Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham says she will be seeking to persuade government to introduce a statutory record-keeping requirement, reports the FOIMan blog and her speech. Also, she said, “We should extend the right to know about public service so it is independent of the service provider.” She plans to prepare a report on these issues.

United States: Josh Gerstein in Politico writes,Fears have spiked that Donald Trump’s incoming administration won’t settle for simply rolling back President Barack Obama’s policies, but may hobble federal agencies by removing reams of data from government websites — or even destroying it.” The Washington Post’s Brady Dennis reports, “Alarmed that decades of crucial climate measurements could vanish under a hostile Trump administration, scientists have begun a feverish attempt to copy reams of government data onto independent servers in hopes of safeguarding it from any political interference.”

United States: See a summary of two seminars of FOIA at Harvard Law School, including videos.

United States: The Senate passes a bill to require agencies to make more data available to the public in a machine-readable format, NextGov reports. House action this year is not expected.

United States: The Food and Drug Administration makes a database of public complaints about adverse events involving food, dietary supplements and cosmetics available to the public via its website. Names of complainants are redacted. 

United States The Sunlight Foundation launched a new beta website  “to demystify the open data policies of cities and states around the county.”

Open Policies: A Global Open Policy Report by the Open Policy Network gives an overview of open policies in 38 countries, across four sectors: education, science, data and heritage. The report includes an Open Policy Index and regional impact and local case studies from Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, Latin America, Europe, and North America. The index measures open policy strength on two scales: policy strength and scope, and level of policy implementation. The index was developed by researchers from CommonSphere, a partner organization of CC Japan. 

Anti-Corruption: The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and Transparency International (TI) are joining forces in a first of its kind partnership to root out grand corruption on a global scale, the Global Anti-Corruption Consortium.

Open Government: A Open Knowledge International blog post blog post by Märt Põder advocates creating apps to encourage participation in local government. He writes:

  • We break the wall of bureaucracy for citizens
  • We hack the motivation using gamification
  • We personalize the citizens’ perspective to municipal decisions
  • We provide a simple yet meaningful overview of things going on in the city

France: The English version of a report issued by 11 French CSOs on “open washing” by the French government. (In French.)

FOI Success Story: The UK town of Bolton made more than £8,000 selling on residents’ private information over the past five years, according to information obtained through FOIA by The Bolton News.

Quote of the Week; “[FOIA] is not a vending machine, you don’t just put your request in and a can of Coke falls out the bottom,” David McCraw, assistant general counsel of the New York Times, who heads up the Times’ FOIA litigation, says at a Harvard Law School seminar. “You have to shake the machine, you have to keep working at it, pray, you have to do all these things in front of the machine to make it deliver the documents.” Taken from a summary of two seminars of FOIA at Harvard Law School.

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