A Renewed Focus
As we all know, FOIA has been with us for many years, over 40 years in fact, and while it has always been taken seriously, the Obama Administration’s focus on transparency has given this long-standing act a boost. As I was cruising the news this morning, I came across an interesting article from FederalNewsRadio (http://tinyurl.com/deanrd). In this interview with Linda Koontz, the former Director of Information Services Issues with the Government Accountability Office, she pointed out that GAO has difficulties measuring an agency’s compliance with the FOIA laws. She also mentioned backlogs measured in months and years. I guess I can think of valid reasons for such backlogs, however, I can also think of possible solutions to help speed the process, as well as make it more accountable for compliance purposes.
The first thing I might look at is the initial process of starting a request. Now, I will admit very freely that my ‘research’ is limited to a few searches on Yahoo and Google, however, what I generally noticed is that the process by which a citizen files a request is either via mail or a HTML-based form. Neither of these approaches are all that appealing as a means to interact with government. Given the possible complexity of a request, working with an online, HTML-based forms can time out and you don’t really have a document of record available to you. Just something to think about…..
I would next give thought to the review and redaction processes. To create efficiencies and accountability in the process, orchestrating a business process to automate the review cycle is a logical step. The process could provide a number of capabilities, such as, document conversion to a single format, sign offs, document assembly, and security. Tightly integrated into this process would be the tools necessary to redact the information, including, pattern-based redaction and assurances that meta-data is handled properly as well.
I know I’ve just barely scratched the surface of possibilities so I would welcome any thoughts from our readers on the topic. Transparency is a good thing and I hope to see agencies continue to open up in the coming years.
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