OK Computer: Announcing the FOIA Information Technology (IT) Working Group

In August 2011, OGIS hosted a meeting of FOIA IT professionals from the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and State, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to discuss how technology can streamline the FOIA process. This single meeting spawned a group of FOIA and IT professionals who are sharing ideas, making plans and dreaming big about new ways to apply technology to the FOIA process.

Though the FOIA IT Working Group formed in October 2011, it already has big plans. Items being discussed include:

  • Ways to collect the IT requirements of FOIA professionals and communicate those to the companies that create products for this audience;
  • Technologies that agencies now use that can be re-purposed for FOIA (such as using the Intelink intranet to streamline consultations and referrals);
  • Increasing participation in the FOIA Portal and helping agencies recognize the potential benefit of this effort; and
  • Applying this group’s unique knowledge to FOIA issues such as database requests and releasing best practices to help agencies better navigate them.

We are very excited to be working with our colleagues from across the government on the FOIA IT Working Group. It’s just another example of how teamwork really works. Over the next few months, FOIA IT Working Group members will share their thoughts with you here on The FOIA Ombudsman blog. Let us know if you are interested in joining this group!

Meanwhile, the Office of Information Policy at the Department of Justice has a similar group that meets regularly to exchange ideas about FOIA and technology. The group is challenging attorneys and others in the FOIA world to think about how existing technologies, such as electronic discovery, used in litigation can be re-tooled for the FOIA process.

One example provided at the group’s January meeting involved the use of an e-discovery tool to whittle 6.2 million potentially responsive documents down to 7,500 documents, reducing the potential processing time from 125,000 hours to 150 hours.  OGIS attends DOJ’s working group meetings and will keep you posted via this blog.