FYI: Streamlining Official Information Act Requests

A voluntary group of information freedom activists has created a website called www.FYI.org.nz, designed to make it easier to people to request information from public organisations under the Official Information Act. A simple webform guides people through the process of identifying an organisation to make a request of, and specifying what information they are requesting.

The site then tracks the responses they get from the organisation, and informs the person by email when responses come in. All responses are made public, although any personally identifying information is removed first, and people are free to use a pseudonym if they are concerned about privacy.

The advantage of making the responses public is that people can use the search function on the site to see if someone else has already requested the information they want, or other information which is relevant to their query. This reduces the time public servants spend sending out identical information, and makes that public information available to anyone who might be interested. Also, because the staff who process the request know their responses are being publicly archived, there is a strong motivation to respond as promptly, and as helpfully as possible.