“Public information on-line database – Public information registry”
Funded by the Open Society Georgia Foundation - $26,972.19
Duration of the Project–6 months.
In September 2010 Institute for Development of Freedom of Information lunches a project “Public information on-line resource database – Public information registry”. An online resource database of public information developed in the framework of this project will enable the population of Georgia, press and media means, non-governmental and international organizations to observe freedom of information dissemination in a real-time format and conduct an on-line auditing of agencies’ operations, proposals and use of budget funds.
The Aim of the Project:
To improve the level of transparency and accountability of the government agencies. To show support in respect to increasing the efficiency and transparency of public financial expenditures;
To facilitate the development of freedom of information through adopting modern standards of electronic democracy;
To enhance public control over government agencies through active engagement of the population, non-governmental sector and media.
Transparency and accountability of government structures, participation of the civil society and media in the planning and decision making process, enhancement of mutual trust between society and government – all these concepts are in direct connection with the modern e-Governance. Together with the advance of information and communication technologies, Internet has become an effective tool of government control.
In the modern world, Internet plays a pivotal role in making interactions between the government and the rest of the society easier. It supports governing transparency and allows a constant control over the governmental activities. With Internet, usage of official web-pages of governmental institutions became optimal way of a direct interrelationship between governmental structures and the society.
Despite the rapidly developing Georgian web-space, there is an evident lack of progress on electronic democracy manifested by the scarcely presented public information on official web-sites. Therefore filling the informational vacuum by creating informational resources will mean a major step toward fulfillment of citizens' fundamental rights – to search, to request, and to freely access public information.
For this reason the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information funded by The Open Society - Georgia Foundation launches a new project “Public information on-line resource database – Public information registry”. An on-line public information database can become one of the effective tools for increasing transparency and accountability of the government sector. Its ability to frequently update information could be viewed as yet another way of the public control. An on-line resource database of public information will enable the population of Georgia, press and media means, non-governmental and international organizations to observe tendencies of the freedom of information dissemination in a real-time format as well as conduct an on-line auditing of different agencies' operations, proposals, use of budget funds, dynamics of growth and other subjects. An on-line public information resource database should have an advanced search option that is structured based on the list of public institutions and thematic topics.
The database will cover a wide range of topics and will incorporate public information resources of government institutions. In each thematic section of the website we will display public information released by different government agencies – public officials' asset declarations, budget, state programs, payroll funds, announced auctions and tenders, statistics of the public information release, premise and reserve funds of various inter-agencies, financial statements of executed and proposed projects, staff employee ratio, expenditures, projects planned or executed by the government agencies and other information. The user will be able to locate needed information in the relevant thematic bloc as well as by pointing the concrete government agency.
Institute's Expert team will undertake statutory consultations with other non-governmental organizations and foundations working in the relevant field (IT Georgia, GLYA, OSGF). In this collaborative efforts the Institute will: conduct a thorough analysis of the Georgian legislation on public information; will develop a database of the governmental and non-governmental public information; will undertake a comparative study of the international experience on the issue, analyzing its functionality and development, will conduct project media poles (during the meetings and through the on-line questionnaires) to identify the most pressing public information issues. Based on the conducted study the Institute’s expert team will build an on-line public information resource database. Registry's search option will allow users to locate needed information by using the thematic search as well as with the drop-down list of the government institutions.
One of the goals of the project is to ensure that the web resource database if continuously updated. An informational acquisition method of the public information on-line registry will be based on four components: methodical requests for public information from the state agencies; obtaining the public information through the collaboration with the state authorities; displaying the public information already obtained by other non-governmental organizations and through the regular monitoring of the government agencies’ official web pages conducted by the IDFI.
In terms of its information completeness and recency the resource database should develop in three steps, among which the priority is given to the public information of the Georgian government’s executive institutions – the ministries. During the following steps the resource database will further expand to include public information obtained from the Georgian government agencies, sub-agencies, regional governments, municipalities, self-governing agencies and government trustees.
For the purpose of development of freedom of information a coordinated work of the non-governmental sector is especially important. The public information resource database developed in the framework of the project can serve as a platform for such collaboration. Non-governmental organizations participating in the project will request high priority public information (such as excessive spending by the government agencies) in a coordinating manner based on their experience and research work. In the case of unlawfully delaying the release of public information, it will file civil lawsuit against the violator (GYLA). Filed cases will become public with the help of mass media and the press. In the case of a denial to release public information, corresponding coalition conclusions will be made and distributed among the public through the use of the media and press. At the same time, base on the files cases the least public and the least transparent agencies will be nominated.
Georgian press and media are considered to be main beneficiaries of project and of the public information resource database created within its framework. It is them who should benefit from the accessibility of public information and it is them who should use it as a tool of public control over government. Therefore it is very important to take into consideration opinions of the media representatives when developing the resource database. An active collaboration with the media and exchange of experience will be especially beneficial to both sides. This will help in developing the strategy and tactical plan for making the project a constantly renewing and interactive public domain. To assist such development a media club will be established and the journalists interested in freedom of information issues will be invited. Meetings of the media club will be conducted on a regular basis which will help to increase publications and media investigations on the discussed subject.