Posts Tagged ‘access’


Transparency Triumph of the Week: Kenya web portal provides tons of gov info

Kenya bolstered its FOI efforts with the July 8 launch of a web portal that provides free information access to the public.

The Kenyan Open Government Data Portal has been heralded as the first project of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa and will provide a variety of data, according to Yahoo! News.

The right to information was included in the new Kenyan constitution adopted in 2010, although the country hasn’t enacted a freedom of information law yet.

The system provides information on government spending, 2009 census data, health and other topics. The website includes a catalog of all available data (currently clocking in at 160+ datasets) for visitors to explore.

The Kenyan government is making this information more easily accessible not only to improve transparency, but also because it can help policy makers develop plans based on the data available through the portal, according to the website.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (mwatkins@spj.org) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

FOI DAILY DOSE: 2012 spending bill’s open gov effects, RCFP involved in Ohio real estate records case

2012 spending bill includes boons, obstacles for transparency

The House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations subcommittee approved its spending measure for the 2012 fiscal year Thursday.

The bill shifts the Electronic Government Fund into the General Service Administration’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, which handles government IT work such as the management of USA.gov.

The E-Gov Fund supports open government websites like Data.gov, and the bill would give OCSIT $50 million for the 2012 fiscal year. This is a $7.8 million increase from the 2011 funding for both OCSIT and the E-Gov Fund, but it is $20.5 million less than their combined budgets in the 2010 fiscal year.

The bill would also forbid the Consumer Product Safety Commission from spending money on its consumer product safety database, which it was required to create after a 2008 law responding to several major product recalls.

This could make it easier to conceal safety risks in consumer products, according to OMB Watch.

The legislation would also forbid agencies from spending money to implement President Obama’s draft executive order that, if he signs it, would make potential federal contractors disclose political contributions to bid on contracts.

The bill is scheduled for markup by the full House Appropriations Committee on June 23.

RCFP calls for Ohio county to stop overcharging for records

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a friend-of-the-court brief encouraging the Ohio Supreme Court to reject Cuyahoga County’s high copy fees for electronic real estate records.

The county has a $2 per page fee for the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s services when filling electronic records requests for real estate data. The RCFP brief argues that this requirement conflicts with state law and, if upheld by the court, could later become the normal fee structure for other Ohio recorders.

Charging such high fees (prices for some requests could hit the six-figure range) for copying real estate records onto a CD-ROM is unacceptable, RCFP Executive Director Lucy Dalglish said in a press release.

The resources used for an employee to physically photocopy pages versus copying them onto a CD aren’t comparable, and fees should reflect the actual cost of reproducing records, according to Dalglish.

Cuyahoga seems to be the only Ohio county where the Recorder requires such high fees for real estate records.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (mwatkins@spj.org) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

Transparency Triumph of the Week: Vermont strengthens public records law

This week’s triumph goes to the Vermont government, which recently approved a law that strengthens freedom of information in the state and opens the door to further improvements.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin signed the bill into law June 1. One of the biggest improvements to existing state public records statutes is a caveat that demands citizens be reimbursed for legal fees if they win in records denial cases.

Other key changes include:

  • An employee must be named “records officer” for each state government agency to handle FOI requests.
  • Records containing exempt information can’t be withheld entirely. They must be redacted and include an explanation for all information that is withheld.
  • Public agencies can avoid paying a plaintiff’s legal fees if they provide the requested information early on in court proceedings.
  • Six state lawmakers will form a study committee to review public records exemptions and potentially find some that could be eliminated.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (mwatkins@spj.org) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

SPJ FOI Update: Chicago Headline Club releases access survey results

SPJ’s chapter in Chicago, the Headline Club, conducted a survey in early 2011 that shows it can be tough for journalists in the Chicago area to get the public records access they need.

Funded with a $40,000 grant from the McCormick Foundation, the information access study asked local reporters about information request response times. The chapter announced the results Wednesday. The University of Illinois Survey Research Laboratory conducted the Web-based survey in February and March 2011.

According to the study, 51.6 percent of information requests to the federal government took more than 20 days for a response.

The study also found that 66.3 percent of requests to the State of Illinois, 72.5 percent of requests in Cook County, and 66.7 percent of requests for the City of Chicago took more than five days for a response.

The 61-page report is available on the Chicago Headline Club’s website.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (mwatkins@spj.org) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

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