Georgia’s freedom of information legislation has long been touted as one of the more progressive in the region. However, independent reports on FOI highlight that the biggest problem with the existing legislative framework is its implementation. According to regional media representatives, while many requests for information are answered, generally the answers are incomplete, deadlines are not respected, and repeated requests have to be made.
When we’ve met them, Tbilisi-based Europe Foundation has been working on a project of Improving Access to Public Information in Self-Governing Cities of Georgia. Being it a topic of our interest we’ve started discussing how we could collaborate.
Building a relationship
Building a relationship between two organizations requires meeting in person. Before reaching the point when we knew that we want to build something together and what it is going to be we’ve met with Europe Foundation on several occasions: on Committing to Openness NDI conference in Tbilisi in September 2015, on a TransparenCEE network meeting in Podgorica in October, on a visit to Tbilisi in middle of November and finally in Warsaw in December 2015.
Opening up budget
We would like to come back to the topic of the application for Georgian municipalities budget
wrote Anka Kuliberda in the email.
Citizens always inquire about the money spent by the authorities, if we could support them in obtaining the information, as well as showing officials that proactively releasing information can lower the number of requests, that would be great! There are a lot of budget visualization platforms in CEE region, we’ve decided it’s time for Georgia to have one.
Discussing the details of the project takes two months and materializes itself in project proposal. We’ve also agreed that we’re going to scale visualizations of budget data that was done as part of the MojePanstwo open data platform by EPF Foundation, Poland.
Soon afterwards Natia Meladze from Europe Foundation joined our efforts as project coordinator.
As Europe Foundation don’t have the indoor technical capacity for developing websites, we’ve started looking for a LIOn – Local Implementing Organization. Out of four companie that has applied we have chosen Flash Studio.
Parallely Natia contracts Freedom of Information Law consultants: Teona Macharashvili and Sulkhan Saladze. They are of great help providing expert knowledge while designing the functionality of the platform as well as getting the needed data from municipalities.
Cleaning the data
FOI consultants took on a hard job of obtaining data from cities. Data was obtained in various formats, some were in PDFs, some in Word, some as scanned images. Now all the obtained data is being cleaned and structured in standardized format in Excel spreadsheets.
Flash Studio has prepared the designs of the platform and they have already started to code it.