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Two Years of AskGov: From Civic Tech Tool to Community Impact

Teona Tomashvili|

“You have a constitutional right to access public information.” I and many others have heard this statement many times. But how does this right actually work in fragile democracies? Let’s delve into the case of Georgia, where in 2022, the success rate of obtaining public information hit an all-time low at 59 percent. It would seem that the government is reluctant to share public information, but in addition to that, the data that is available is underutilized by journalists and activists.

To address both of these challenges simultaneously and inspired by the UK’s WhatDoTheyKnow, ForSet launched a citizen-centric freedom of information platform called in 2021. 

AskGov serves two primary purposes:

  1. Streamlined Freedom of Information (FOI) Requests: It assists users in requesting public information from various government agencies. With a semi-automated letter template, the process takes less than five minutes for individuals to submit their requests.
  2. Transparent Database: Every requested letter and the corresponding dataset are automatically published on the platform, steadily creating a growing public database.

Through AskGov, more than 21,000 Georgians have made over 2,700 FOI requests. But beyond these numbers, what happens to the data that is released? How is it disseminated within the community? Are individuals evolving into government watchdogs? Is using these datasets enhancing transparency and accountability?

If we want to strengthen democracy through technology, developing a civic tech tool is just a small part 30 percent of the job. The bulk of the work percent is building a community around it. So for the past year and a half, we have been organizing meetings, hackathons, and data visualization competitions to teach activists, journalists, and students how to request freedom of information from government agencies. Here are some examples of how people are using the public data they found through AskGov.

A 19-year-old student shaped the country’s political agenda

In early 2023, a 19-year-old student requested information from the Ministry of Internal Affairs regarding the artificial intelligence tools used by laboratories to conduct forensic research. It turns out these tools were made by Russia. This student wrote an article about it, shared it with local media outlets and the story went viral. It got reposted by various news websites, broadcasted by multiple TV channels and even became the subject of some press conferences organized by leaders of the opposition. Journalists quickly started investigating the case, contacting many stakeholders involved in the purchase and usage of Russian-made AI tools, backing up what the student had found.

This case shows that even in a deeply polarized society, a 19-year-old student, empowered with the right tools, can shape today’s political agenda.

AskGov inspires the development of additional tech tools

A recent study in Georgia indicated that public awareness of social services is remarkably low. Most of the non-beneficiary population had not even heard of any social programs. ForSet requested data from different public agencies on social services available in different municipalities across Georgia. With this information, and in partnership with Expertise France, we organized a hackathon to find a team that could create a tool to help young people easily determine whether they can benefit from any type of social services available in their municipality.

The winning team created an online quiz that suggests all the possible social services that are suitable for users based on their needs and preferences. It also directs you to the hotline of the recommended services for further instructions on how to access them. 

After winning, the team underwent a mentorship program led by ForSet to finalize the product. We are now at the stage of launching and promoting the tool.

AskGov wins the Copenhagen Democracy Summit Tech Award

AskGov was launched less than two years ago and since then, it has played a pivotal role in nurturing a community of journalists and activists. Notably, it has contributed to more than 200 media stories and has inspired the development of up to 10 new tech tools. To showcase the remarkable impact AskGov has had on the Georgian community, we presented AskGov at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit in 2023.

AskGov was recognized with the Summit’s Tech Award and a prize of 10,000 USD.


If you were to ask me what this journey with AskGov has taught me, it would be the realization that merely creating a civic tech tool and leaving it alone is insufficient for driving real change. We should provide ongoing support and motivation until individuals and communities become resilient and empowered enough to carry the torch forward independently.

In a country where the accessibility of public information becomes increasingly challenging, we have successfully used this tool to mobilize activists, journalists, and citizens. Together, they have fought for their rights, gained insights from datasets, and crafted data-driven stories and tools that bring about positive change in their communities. As we celebrate AskGov’s second anniversary, we eagerly anticipate making even greater contributions to advance transparency, accountability, and civic engagement in the years to come.


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