D.C. launches FOIA portal, to hire chief data officer


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Washington, D.C., launched a new portal for submitting and processing Freedom of Information Act requests Monday, the same day Mayor Vincent Gray issued a directive on transparency and open data that, among other things, calls for the city to hire a chief data officer.

“This new online FOIA system is a key part of our strategy to improve government transparency and accountability,” Gray said in a statement. “In addition, the executive order I am issuing today sends an important message to District government agencies and the public: Everyone wins when we make it easier for the public to understand the workings of the District government.”

The new FOIA portal will allow citizens to submit public records requests to more than 50 participating agencies through a centralized website with more agencies expected to be added in the next fiscal year.

The system will assign each request a unique tracking number that allows users to follow the status of their request. That functionality will also allow city officials to generate reports on what extent agencies are meeting their FOIA obligations.

Washington, D.C., choose its vendor, FOIAXpress, based on its federal government projects, including those with the General Services Administration and the departments of Justice and Homeland Security.

As for the executive order, it calls for agencies to publish up to 15 different categories of government information online and establishes a single Web page for gaining access to that information. Also, the order requires agencies to report on compliance with it and necessitates each city board and commission to develop a plan to ensure that their meetings are webcast.

The directive establishes an Open Data Policy for the city, which requires the city’s data be published in a machine-readable format, searchable and retrievable through common Web applications.

The city will hire a chief data officer, selected by the city’s chief technology officer, to lead these efforts.

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