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Hackney Council automates FoI responses


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Hackney Council has begun to use a new digital system for managing freedom of information (FoI) requests that includes the capacity to provide automated responses.

It has been developed with the social enterprise technology provider mySociety, using the Infreemation case management software as the basis for a system named FoI for Councils.

A spokesperson for mySociety said Hackney’s system has recently gone live on its website and that it will act as a prototype for development for other councils.

The system enables FoI officers to respond to a request through Infreemation, and that when they publish it FoI for Councils can pull the response into the suggestions engine.

It has reduced the process to six screens, each of which provides contextual help, and asking for three details: name, email address and the request for information. The text is scanned for keywords to see if anything matches information that is already published, and if so the top three responses are automatically displayed as possible answers before the request is submitted.

The pool of suggestions consists of published answers to previous FoI requests and links to existing information. This is expected reduce the number of duplicate requests and reduce the burden on FoI officers, and make things easier for the public.

The system has been developed on open source in line with Government Digital Service guidance.

A mySociety blogpost adds that it originally envisioned creating a platform that would process subject access requests as well as FoI, but this has been shelved for now.

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

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