eFOi’s new feature seen to lessen denied requests

By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

August 9, 2022, 4:26 pm

<p><em>(eFOI website screenshot)</em></p>

(eFOI website screenshot)


MANILA – The executive department’s electronic Freedom of Information (eFOI) website has a new feature which will help minimize the rejection of requests for public information, an FOI officer said Tuesday.

This, after the Freedom of Information - Program Management Office (FOI-PMO) partnered with the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) for the creation of the eFOI’s recommender system feature, FOI Program Director Krizia Casey Avejar said in a statement.

“As part of its commitment to continually improve and innovate the electronic FOI (eFOI) Portal, the Freedom of Information - Program Management Office (FOI-PMO), in partnership with the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), co-developed the recommender system feature,” Avejar said.

The new eFOI feature was introduced during the Transparency Webinar which was streamed live on FOI Philippines’ official Facebook page on Monday, Avejar said.

The recommender system, Avejar said, can match the requests for information to the correct agencies with the highest possible precision.

Avejar said the new system will help lessen the number of requests rejected because of “wrong agency and invalid requests.

“Through the new recommender system, the request for information lodged by the Requesting Party through the eFOI portal will be connected to the top three government agencies [which] are likely to maintain, store, and provide the data,” she said. “With this innovation, it is expected that the number of denied requests for information by reason of wrong agency and invalid requests shall be reduced significantly.”

The new feature was also developed after the FOI-PMO noticed that requesting parties have also tried a “shotgun” strategy, Avejar said.

She was referring to the requestor’s attempt to make requests to multiple agencies bearing the same information inquiry, “with the hope that at least one of these would provide them with the needed information.”

“A requesting party may request information from over 500 government agencies on board the eFOI Portal. Given this variety, there are chances that requesting parties may ask the incorrect agency for a particular information,” Avejar said.

“The FOI-PMO saw these issues in the Program’s implementation and sought the assistance of data science and technology as a commitment to pursue innovations,” she added.

The recommender system is the product of a capstone project of AIM students in the Master of Science in Data Science.

The public may now make a request and test the new feature by visiting the foi.gov.ph website.

On July 23, 2016, former president Rodrigo Duterte inked Executive Order (EO) 2, giving the public access to official documents and transactions in all government offices under the executive branch.

EO 2 enables Filipino citizens to ask for any information about government transactions and operations by presenting proof of identity to the concerned state agency or lodging queries online through eFOI website.

The concerned agency must respond to requests within 15 days. It may also ask for an extension to process the request which shall not be longer than 20 working days.

To date, there are 561 participating government agencies onboard the eFOI portal to provide the public with convenience in requesting public records and information. (PNA)