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Israel

Web for FOI (IL0015)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Israel Action Plan 2015-2017

Action Plan Cycle: 2015

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Governmental Freedom of Information Unit, Ministry of Justice

Support Institution(s): E-Government unit

Policy Areas

Right to Information

IRM Review

IRM Report: Israel End-of-Term Report 2015-2017

Starred: No

Early Results: Major Major

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information Public Accountability

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

The main Freedom of Information website went online in January 2014 (foi.gov.il), and allows people to contact many authorities on one website. In addition to contact information of authorities and department heads, the website serves as the main platform on which information already provided by the authorities, as well as information about agreements and contracts with private parties on matters as outlined in Government Resolution No. 1116 of December 29, 2103, is consolidated.

Now that the website is online, the challenge is to increase awareness of its existence and to encourage its use both by the public and by the public authorities.
To make it easier for the public to find information and submit requests in accordance with the Freedom of Information Law. Main objective - to expand the information on the central freedom of information website and increase awareness and use of the site. Challenge - To increase involvement of citizens in government and realize the citizens' right to information

IRM Midterm Status Summary

Commitment 2. Increasing Use of Central Website for Freedom of Information

Commitment Text:

To expand the information on the central freedom of information website and increase awareness and use of the site.

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed: The main Freedom of Information website went online in January 2014 (foi.gov.il), and allows people to contact many authorities on one website. In addition to contact information of authorities and department heads, the website serves as the main platform on which information already provided by the authorities, as well as information about agreements and contracts with private parties on matters as outlined in Government Resolution No. 1116 of December 29, 2013, is consolidated.  The resolution titled 'Publication of Permits and Contracts between the State and Private Bodies' orders the proactive publication of such contracts in all government ministries.

Now that the website is online, the challenge is to increase awareness of its existence and to encourage its use both by the public and by the public authorities.

Main Objective: To make it easier for the public to find information and submit requests in accordance with the Freedom of Information Law.

Milestones:

2.1 To create a continuous practice of uploading information (answers, agreements and permits) to the website.

2.2 To expand the information base on the website and improve access.

Responsible institution: Ministry of Justice – Freedom of Information Unit

Supporting institution(s): E-Government Unit

Start date: January 1, 2015  End date: January 1, 2016

Context and objectives:

The technical procedures for filing an FOI request are a significant obstacle to individuals with no prior relevant experience who attempt to use the law.  Bureaucratic obstacles are an issue in many countries with FOI legislation, but even more so in Israel. The Global Right to Information Rating gives Israel a score of 66 out of 150, and only 12 points out of possible 30 for its requesting procedures. 'Global Right to Information Rating' (Access Info and the Centre for Law and Democracy, 2015), www.rti-rating.org.   This commitment aims to simplify the process of filing FOI requests with the government and make the information requested and disclosed in the past more readily available. Furthermore, this commitment is relevant to OGP values as it promotes the usage of an FOI law as a tool of open-government. However, the overall objective and proposed milestones of the commitment are not detailed and not clearly measurable.

In addition, the milestones do not clearly relate to the commitment and its objective which mentions the limitations imposed on FOI submissions. The objective discusses 'public awareness' efforts to facilitate the public’s ability to find information. However, the milestones only address uploading information and the consequential expansion of the information base; no mention is made of simplifying the FOI request process.

Should this commitment be properly implemented, it would have a moderate impact on addressing the bureaucratic hurdles in the path of information seekers.

Completion

This commitment is on track as scheduled with substantial actions taken to comply with its objective. Firstly, the government held a public awareness campaign in the media aimed at raising awareness of the website and the types of information obtainable through the website.  For campaign activities see 'Freedom of Information Week' (Ministry of Justice, 14 May 2015), www.justice.gov.il/Pubilcations/Articles/Pages/FOIWeekMay2015.aspx.   Although the campaign is not mentioned as a commitment milestone, it consisted of radio and Facebook ads in which the public was encouraged to ask for governmental information using the new website.  The radio ads were aired over 300 times on two national Hebrew-speaking and one Arab-speaking radio stations. Facebook ads were viewed by 159,000 users.   It generated an increase of nearly 100% in traffic to the unit's website, from approximately 180 unique visitors per day to approximately 350.  https://goo.gl/ZfD8ya.   Secondly, the FOI unit began to regularly upload documents provided through other FOI requests.  As of 29 Nov. 2016, government agencies uploaded a total of 534 documents in response to FOI requests.  The provided documents are not proportional to government offices. For example,  are three times more documents uploaded from Israel’s 6th largest municipality than from the country's Ministry of Education, an authority of much wider public interest. Ministry of Justice – Government Freedom of Information Unit, 29 Nov. 2016), https://foi.gov.il/he/search/site/?f[0]=im_field_mmdtypes%3A15.  

The government reports a 67% increase in FOI requests filed online and an addition of 620 documents uploaded.  National Open Government Plan 2015-2017: Midterm Report: Meeting the Action Plan Objectives, (Government of Israel, Sept. 2016), www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/Israel_Mid-Term-Self-Assessment-Report_2015-17_EN.pdf.   Furthermore, the government reports 1,700 requests were filed through the website. However, out of thirty-six ministries in Israel, only four ministries uploaded replies to approximately 50 FOI requests in the period between January 2014 and May 2016.  'What is the Freedom of Information Act?' (Ministry of Justice - Government Freedom of Information Unit, 16 Sept. 2016), https://foi.gov.il.  As many FOI replies consist of several documents, the total number of 620 uploaded documents is not high compared with the volume of requests. Therefore, there has only been an improvement in the FOI requesting process and not in the actual access to information. This is reflected in the researchers' assessment of the second milestone as being substantially completed.

Many site users, including non-governmental organizations, were satisfied with the site and its usability. During interviews conducted by the IRM researchers, civil society representatives expressed that the site is useful and rich with information.  Or Sadan (Legal Advisor at the Movement for Freedom of Information in Israel) interview 28 Nov. 2016.  In particular, during one interview, the legal adviser to the Movement of Freedom of Information in Israel said the site is updated frequently and its statistics tools are useful.  Legal Advisor of the Movement of Freedom of Information in Israel) interview Nov. 2016.

Next Steps

This commitment has the potential to be completed in a timely manner. In future action plans, or in other efforts by the government, this commitment could benefit from considering a binding framework to publish all replies to FOI requests on the FOI website. Additionally, with the regularization of the FOI unit, this commitment could also seek to accept payments through the site as a way to improve citizen’s use of the website.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

2. Increasing Use of Central Website for Freedom of Information

Commitment Text:

To expand the information on the central freedom of information website and increase awareness and use of the site.

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed: The main Freedom of Information website went online in January 2014 (foi.gov.il), and allows people to contact many authorities on one website. In addition to contact information of authorities and department heads, the website serves as the main platform on which information already provided by the authorities, as well as information about agreements and contracts with private parties on matters as outlined in Government Resolution No. 1116 of December 29, 2013, is consolidated. The resolution titled 'Publication of Permits and Contracts between the State and Private Bodies' orders the proactive publication of such contracts in all government ministries.

Now that the website is online, the challenge is to increase awareness of its existence and to encourage its use both by the public and by the public authorities.

Main Objective: To make it easier for the public to find information and submit requests in accordance with the Freedom of Information Law.

Milestones:

2.1. To create a continuous practice of uploading information (answers, agreements and permits) to the website.

2.2. To expand the information base on the website and improve access.

Responsible institution: Ministry of Justice - Freedom of Information Unit

Supporting institution: E-Government Unit

Start date: 1 January 2015

End date: 1 January 2016

Commitment Aim

This commitment aimed to simplify the process for the public to find information and submit requests in accordance with the Freedom of Information (FOI) Law by reducing 'red tape' for individuals that request information under the FOI framework. Currently, filing an FOI request requires paying a 'request fee', which complicated the filing procedure for many requestors. More specifically, this commitment looks to make the information requested and disclosed in the past under the FOI Law more readily available to other information requestors.

Status

Midterm: Substantial

At the midterm, the IRM researchers reported on a media public awareness campaign conducted mainly through radio advertisements and sponsored Facebook posts. The aim was to raise awareness of the existence of the website, which generated a 100 percent increase in traffic to the website and 67 percent in the filing of FOI requests using the website. The IRM researchers also reported that 620 documents released in response to FOI requests were uploaded to the website, but from a limited number of ministries. Israel IRM Midterm Report, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/Israel_MidTerm-Progress_2015-2017_ENG.pdf, pg. 27. For more information, see the IRM midterm report. Israel IRM Midterm Report, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/Israel_MidTerm-Progress_2015-2017_ENG.pdf, pg. 27.

End of term: Complete

The commitment in the government's action plan was described as ending in January 2016. However, for the purposes of this report, the IRM researcher looked at the ongoing efforts which are largely a result of activities that took place during the declared implementation period and continued afterwards.

The publication of documents released through FOI requests has increased significantly in the previous months. The head of the FOI Unit admitted that they have been motivated to do so following FOI requests from civil society activists that asked for the full list of documents released, thus incentivizing the Unit to proactively publish the information on their website. At the time of writing, the website consists of 1,700 documents, compared to 620 at the time of the midterm report. The FOI Unit website, https://foi.gov.il/he/search/site/?f[0]=im_field_mmdtypes%3A15. Furthermore, the head of the FOI Unit informed the IRM researcher that they plan to install a system that will automatically present every document released because of an FOI request filed through the site (unless the FOI officer specifically orders the system not to do so). The system was expected to become operative in December 2017.

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Major

For many years, the volume of FOI requests filed under Israel's FOI law was low. The request fee and the cumbersome procedures to request information hindered or dissuaded many citizens from fulfilling their right. The centralized FOI website aimed to ease the complexity of filing a request and create a unified standard and online form for many different authorities. It has proven to be a success, and implementation of this commitment has led to more information requests being filed. In terms of the volume of requests filed through the website, the first seven months of 2017 saw 2,048 requests filed compared to 1,246 in the first seven months of 2016. For volume of FOI requests, see (in Hebrew), http://www.justice.gov.il/Units/YechidatChofeshHameyda/GlobalDocs/%D7%98%D7%A4%D7%A1%D7%99%D7%9D%20%D7%9E%D7%A7%D7%95%D7%95%D7%A0%D7%99%D7%9D%20%D7%99%D7%95%D7%9C%D7%99%202017%20%281%29.pdf. In total, 4,074 FOI request were filed during 2017. While it is likely that some of these requests replace ones that would have otherwise been filed offline, it is nevertheless reasonable to assume that many of them would have not (as people avoided filing requests due to the technical barriers that existed).

The information released is accessible to the public at large, allowing others who have an interest, but are not engaged enough to file a request by themselves, to access this information. Therefore, more information has become available, and the available information is more widely used by the public. An indirect impact of these two progressions is that civil society is empowered with information upon which it may, if it chooses to, act in the public arena, increasing public participation.

Carried Forward?

This commitment has not been carried forward to Israel's third action plan.


Israel's Commitments

  1. Civic participation processes in government

    IL0023, 2017, Capacity Building

  2. Resolution implementation reports

    IL0024, 2017, E-Government

  3. Action plan performance indicators

    IL0025, 2017, E-Government

  4. Government call centers

    IL0026, 2017, Marginalized Communities

  5. National Legislation Database

    IL0027, 2017, E-Government

  6. National Plan for the Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions

    IL0028, 2017, Audits and Controls

  7. Transparency criteria

    IL0029, 2017, Public Participation

  8. Publication of information legislative amendments

    IL0030, 2017, Legislation & Regulation

  9. Transparency, participation, accessibility of information in local authorities and Ministry of the Interior

    IL0031, 2017, E-Government

  10. Publicly accessible databases

    IL0032, 2017, E-Government

  11. Remotely accessing government services

    IL0033, 2017, Capacity Building

  12. Paperless government

    IL0034, 2017, E-Government

  13. Open-source code

    IL0035, 2017, E-Government

  14. Evaluation of Open Government plan

    IL0036, 2017, OGP

  15. Contracting between the government and private sector

    IL0016, 2015, Open Contracting and Procurement

  16. Unified Website for Government Offices

    IL0017, 2015, Records Management

  17. Data.gov

    IL0018, 2015, Open Data

  18. Public's Satisfaction with Government Services

    IL0019, 2015, Public Participation

  19. ATI on legislation

    IL0020, 2015, Records Management

  20. Civic participation tools

    IL0021, 2015, E-Government

  21. Civic Participation

    IL0022, 2015, Public Participation

  22. Review of the Governmental Freedom of Information Unit's authority

    IL0014, 2015, Capacity Building

  23. Web for FOI

    IL0015, 2015, Right to Information

  24. Establishing a cross-sector forum that promotes open government programs

    IL0001, 2012, Public Participation

  25. State Budget Information Accessibility

    IL0002, 2012, Fiscal Transparency

  26. Publication of Work Plans in Government Offices

    IL0003, 2012, E-Government

  27. Establishing a system of measurement and review and publicizing a government service report to the public

    IL0004, 2012, Capacity Building

  28. Cooperation between the government and the public in developing online applications

    IL0005, 2012, Private Sector

  29. Public Participation in Policymaking Processes

    IL0006, 2012, Public Participation

  30. Establishing a Freedom of Information Unit in the Ministry of Justice

    IL0007, 2012, Judiciary

  31. Developing technology infrastructure for providing government services

    IL0008, 2012, E-Government

  32. Inter-office Committee for Improving Business Processes

    IL0009, 2012, E-Government

  33. Creating a Government Contact Center (NAMAL - Meeting Point for Citizens)

    IL0010, 2012, E-Government

  34. Online Catalog of Government Services

    IL0011, 2012, E-Government

  35. Establishing a Unit for Government Service to the Public

    IL0012, 2012, Public Service Delivery

  36. Establishing a National Information Technology (IT) Unit Headed by a Government CIO

    IL0013, 2012, E-Government