Dispatch from New Orleans: A report from the annual FOI Summit

2013-FOI-Summit-0404-webNew ICOG board member Kimberly Brown-Harden attended the recent FOI Summit in New Orleans. The annual gathering, hosted by the National Freedom of Information Coalition, brings together advocates from around the country to discuss the latest developments in open government.

A key discussion at the summit, according to Brown-Harden, revolved around the challenges that local coalitions face with limited budgets and personnel. Panel members urged state organizations to maintain a healthy digital presence, keeping websites and social media updated. The discussion included an update on a pilot program to enhance and link NFOIC affiliates’ websites. ICOG is among the state coalitions participating in the pilot; other states include Missouri, Connecticut, Delaware, Nebraska, Florida, Tennessee and Colorado.

The importance of the online sites was underscored by conference keynote speaker Waldo Jaquith, an award-winning website developer who created the White House’s Ethics.gov tool. Jaquith, who calls himself an “open government technologist,” highlighted examples of state government websites that fail to provide adequate access to statutes and other information. He said we have to do better in making content easier to find and read for public access.

Other topics explored by panels at the summit included the issue of executive privilege, the impact of newspaper closures on the public, and access to government officials’ emails and text messages. Full information on the summit, including videos from panel presentations, can be viewed at the FOI Summit’s wrap-up site.