Why do agencies struggle with FOI and open data so much?

The linked email conversation (in a blog post), Freedom of Information Request for Classification Data, provides an interesting insight into the struggles government agencies are having with FOI and open data and with the difficulties applicants are having accessing data which should be available in reusable formats.

In this case information which is publicly available and searchable has been made less accessible by an agency in their site (breaking a site scraper). Then after the developer asks the agency for access to the data under FOI the agency (after several delays) offers to make it available for $4,000.

As far as can be determined from the information provided, the process for releasing the data – which is already in a database – simply requires a single SQL command.

The appearance is that the agency is being badly let down by its IT systems or staff – or that it is unwilling to provide the data.

Either situation is a sad reflection on the agency and on the commitment of the government to openness.

I’ll keep tracking this request – as are also a number of people in the open data space – to see how it is resolved, and how long it takes to do so.

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