Searching for Proactive Transparency Global Standards: Pilot International Survey on Governmental Online Openness

After we had analyzed an article by Professor Sheila S. Coronel called «Measuring Openness: A survey of transparency ratings and the prospects for a global index»  we asked ourselves: Is it possible to create a worldwide measure for the openness of governments? In order to answer this question we organized a pilot survey on the basis of an already-completed method of grading the openness of government websites. We invited our colleagues from Belarus, Georgia and the USA to participate.

The results are available on the Infometer website.

A Bit Open Data

We present results of audit performed together with the Open Government and addressing open data publication at Russian federal executive government bodies' websites.

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Since 2013, open data has become a key topic of discussions on governmental openness. They expect that "free" vast volumes of machine-readable official information will facilitate communication between the government and the public, and bring economic profit. Some people already consider the Open Data as a basis for open state governance, expecting that its other components will develop following data openness. The Openness Standard for Federal Government Bodies as well as federal legislation pays significant attention to open data. The Freedom of Information Foundation has studied how the requirements are observed.

Monitoring of the government bodies’ official websites as an efficient tool for public control

We would like to present a short review of our most ambitious project which involves our experts in all parts of Russia – monitoring of the official websites of public authorities and local governments. This is a story about how expert control improves the work of authorities.

The St.-Petersburg Justice Department Withdraws the Warning against the FIF

On December 11, 2012, the Freedom of Information Foundation received an official letter from the St.-Petersburg Head Department of the Ministry for Justice of Russia withdrawing the warning against the FIF that alleged a violation of reporting terms (a scan of the letter is attached to the Russian version).

We possibly should remind that on October 3, 2014, the St.-Petersburg Head Department of the Ministry for Justice of Russia issued a warning on law abuse against the FIF, stating that our organization has not provided a financial report in time. In fact, we did provide the report in question to the central office of the Ministry within the terms defined by law.

St.-Petersburg City Administration Modifies Practice for Online Publication of Cartographic Information

Now, the maps showing local "Hyde Parks" (special areas designed for public expression of opinions) are published at the St.-Petersburg administration's website in the correct manner.

Last spring, the Government of St.-Petersburg issued a statement designing special areas for public discussion of socially significant issues. Maps showing borders of those special areas are attached to the statement. However, one hardly could see anything clearly at the maps placed at the city administration's website at that time (see the left figure). This made a citizen to apply to court. The FIF lawyers rendered support to the applicant.

The FIF Contests Entrance into the "Foreign Agent" Register

The Freedom of Information Foundation filed to the Zamoskvoretsky district court of Moscow a claim against the decision of the Ministry for Justice on entrance of the Foundation into the Ministry's register of NGOs performing functions of foreign agent.

We'd like to remind that, in September, the Foundation contested the public prosecution's recommendation requiring from the organization to register as a "foreign agent". However, the Moskovsky district court of St.-Petersburg decided in favor of the public prosecution. The FIF has appealed against this decision to the St.-Petersburg City Court.

The "Soldiers' Mothers of St.-Petersburg" and the FIF Contest Warnings Made by the Ministry for Justice

Today, the Soldiers' Mothers of St.-Petersburg human rights NGO and the Freedom of Information Foundation filed complaints against warnings made by the St.-Petersburg department of the Ministry for Justice. FIF lawyers Ivan Pavlov and Evgeny Smirnov together with FIF Executive Director Daria Sukhikh represent interests of both NGOs.

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We are always open to cooperation

The methodology developed by Freedom of information Foundation for monitoring official websites is applicable widely. It is convenient, efficient and can be used for research in various fields. We are interested in cooperation with different governmental and non-government entities in various countries in order to extend the monitoring practice, including possible joint comparative researches.