Helping journalists ask questions of power

Alaveteli Pro | UK | €203K Funding | Nonprofit | Exploring New Technologies

Alaveteli Pro gives professional journalists enhanced, simple to use tools to make and manage Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to government bodies and public organisations.

It should be simple to ask questions of power — people have the right to access information.

Louise Crow
mySociety Head of Development

Louise Crow, Head of Development at mySociety, explains the ethos behind the organisation’s work: “It should be simple to ask questions of power — people have the right to access information.” In support of this mission, mySociety has for 12 years been providing free tools which anyone can use to make Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. But the service didn't have the necessary level of control which journalists needed and were willing to pay for. For example, there wasn’t an easy way to ask for the same information from multiple public bodies which is something many journalistic investigations rely on.

The solution, Alaveteli Pro, a paid-for service which has been rolled out in the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Czechia and, for the team, it’s the stories their tools reveal that are the marker of success. As an example, fellow DNI Fund recipient Bureau Local used Alaveteli Pro to build up a picture of public properties being sold off by UK councils.

DNI funding enabled the team to work closely with journalists to understand their needs and develop professional functionalities for FOI requests. These features include the ability to keep requests and responses private until the journalist releases the story. They also developed a ‘batch request’ function that allows users to send multiple requests at the same time.

Over the next 18 months, mySociety plans to roll out Alaveteli Pro to more countries and develop new features. As Crow says, “Technology in the public interest is underdeveloped, but it is invaluable.”

Technology in the public interest is underdeveloped, but it is invaluable.

Louise Crow - mySociety Head of Development

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