The B.C. government wants new computer software to modernize its antiquated Freedom of Information process.
The government is seeking bids from companies that can design new software to let people submit, track, pay for and receive their FOI requests on the Internet, according to a request for proposals.
It’s also supposed to streamline the process of gathering hundreds, if not thousands, of hard-copy pages of paper that are then redacted, copied and mailed to people looking for information.
The FOI process is one of the public’s only ways to formally request information from the government. Anyone can file a free request for any information, though a processing fee may apply depending on the volume of records. Some information is also severed for privacy, security or government confidentiality reasons.
The government said the new software is needed, in part, to address a growing workload.
The government bid document notes that 10,000 FOI requests are expected this year, a rise of 52 per cent since 2008.
The FOI office has 160 full-time staff.
The current system of gathering and releasing information is cumbersome, time-consuming, inefficient and inconsistent in storing, maintaining, retrieving and archiving massive amounts of government FOI material, according to the bid document.
Whatever software is chosen, it will need to help government keep at least a 90 per cent “on-time” performance rating for requests, improve internal efficiencies in processing FOIs, reduce the attrition rate of staff, sustain or decrease privacy breaches and update security technologies, bid material said.
The software could also be used to help proactively disclose travel expenses of ministers and deputy ministers, which the government now manually posts on its Open Information website.
The estimated cost of the project, including software, licences and training, is expected to be about $600,000, said the Ministry of Citizens’ Services and Open Government.
The ministry said it hopes to purchase the software by the end of March and complete integration by the end of November.
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