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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pen and paper FOI applications make jaws drop

From the (Toronto) Globe and Mail
"Toby Mendel, president of the Centre for Law and Democracy, recently returned from Rabat where he spoke with officials devising an access law for Morocco. They asked him what the Canadian government had proposed in the area of access reform as part of the global Open Government Partnership initiative. Mendel told them Canada had suggested allowing access requesters to apply electronically, dispensing with the current cumbersome practice of a paper form and a $5 cheque. “Literally, I could see their jaws dropping,” Mendel said in an interview. “Because it was incomprehensible to them that a country like Canada would not already have electronic requesting possibility.”
Well at least Canada is a member of the OGP along with around 60 other countries. Australia continues to sit on the outside- Indonesia, the Philippines and Korea are the only torch-bearers from this region.

Of course if the issue of comparisons with Canada was raised, our government could point out that these days Federal agencies all seem to accept an email application.

But many state governments are still back in the stone age as we found from a quick look around last year.

South Australian Police still take the gold boulder- asking that you personally front up to a police station with your application. Narrowly ahead of those such as NSW Roads and Maritime providing the option of dropping your application into an office or dropping it in the mail. To be fair some NSW agencies such as Finance and Services  appear to have moved into the 1990s in the last year. But there are plenty of other agencies in NSW, SA and Western Australia still opening the stamped  envelopes each morning. And trusting you followed the guidance to pay the application fee-strictly cash, cheque or money order, thank you. (Memo: Once upon a time, long before there were Apps.......)


  1. Anonymous5:47 pm

    From 01/06/2012, WorkCover NSW:

    - Introduced application fees, just a tiny 2 years after introduction of the GIPA Act.
    - Required use of a special form and a copy of identification which has been certified.

    These requirements come at a time when the agency is under incredible scrutiny. Presumably such changes have been made to avoid such scrutiny.

    Mr Barry O'Farrell and WorkCover's acting CEO, Ms Julie Newman have a lot to answer.

  2. Andrew11:13 am

    Could these agencies cope with sites such as the UK's What Do They Know or it's New Zealand counterpart, FYI?

    The software for building such a site is freely available from MySociety - it's called Alaveteli, after the place in Finland that Anders Chydenius, drafter of the Swedish Freedom of the Press Act 1766, came from. Maybe someone in Australia is building a version at the moment?

  3. Andrew, We may soon see. I'm aware of interest here in Alavetell, but volunteers are in short supply. As evidenced by the demise of Open Australia for the last six months but back in action yesterday thanks to Henare Deegan and Justin Wells. Thanks guys.