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FOI – “Poking the beast of authority”

Submitted by on January 14, 2010 – 6:14 pm | 5,861 views

Citizens are now able “poke the beast of authority” at the touch of a button, according to Francis Irving, senior developer at mySociety.org

In an animated talk and discussion at news:rewired, Irving laid out his vision for the future of data freedom and its presentation in the UK, including the potential for internationally available data. mySociety has plans to open its website up to FOI interests outside the UK within the next two years.

He said: “We hope to make these resources available internationally within the next couple of years. It isn’t easy as people don’t have the same attitudes to data freedom in all countries. We really need to look at Estonia for an example of how it should be done, they have one of the best Freedom of Information systems in the world.”

mySociety.org, the organisation behind Freedom of Information site whatdotheyknow.com, is committed to giving the public easy, online access to data that impacts their lives. Their efforts to synthesise complex data in a user-friendly, attractive manner have changed the way we interact with authority.

Whatdotheyknow.com has achieved such success among FOI enthusiasts that it is now estimated to be responsible for seventy per cent of all FOI requests. True to the FOI cause, every request is available for public scrutiny, making it an excellent resource for researching requests.

And Irving is adamant that many FOI officers, despite the protestations of a number of journalists, do a good job.

“The role of the FOI officer is to be your representative in an organisation, not the organisation’s representative to you. They are there to serve your interests and, thankfully, there are many people who go into the job taking those responsibilities very seriously.”

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