Washington D.C.has launched a new effort to process Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. A new online portal will make it possible for individuals to submit requests and have them processed online. The new portal, powered by “FOIAXpress,” is the District’s first-ever citywide FOIA processing system. Mayor Gray also issued an executive order that mandates that the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) hire a Chief Data Officer (CDO) to assist in the deployment and to help coordinate additional open data programming.
At its launch, more than 50 District agencies will be included. Additional agencies will be added to the system in the next fiscal year.
The new DC Government Public FOIA Portal will allow requesters to submit public records requests for any of the participating agencies to a centralized website. The requests will be assigned a unique tracking number, and users will be able to track the status of the request. The system will also permit the District to generate reports to determine whether agencies are meeting their FOIA obligations in a timely manner.
Other documents and data sets will be published to an online reading room.
A similar system is already in place at several agencies including Homeland Security, the Justice Department and General Services Administration.
The Mayor’s executive order requires that agencies proactively publish up to 15 different categories of government information online and establishes a single Web portal for gaining access to that information. The order also requires agencies to report on compliance with the order and necessitates each district board and commission develop a plan to ensure that their meetings are webcast. In response to comments received from the public and interested stakeholders, the order also establishes an open data policy for the District. The open data policy requires the designation of a CDO and that the District’s data be published in an open format that is capable of being downloaded, searched and retrieved by common web applications.