OIP and 18F Release Report on the “Discovery Phase” of the National FOIA Portal and Ask for Your Continued Participation with Development

September 20, 2017

Today, OIP is pleased to announce the results of its collaboration with GSA’s 18F team on the discovery phase of development of a National FOIA Portal.  As we enter development, we want to again solicit both public and agency participation in providing feedback on our work.

The FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 directed the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to build a “consolidated online request portal that allows a member of the public to submit a request for records . . . to any agency from a single website.”   In April 2017, the Office of Information Policy (OIP) announced its partnership with the General Services Administration’s (GSA) 18F team to create a consolidated online request portal.  To begin the project, OIP compiled a team with members including its own FOIA subject matter experts, 18F’s digital services team, and technical staff from DOJ’s Office of the Chief Information Officer and contractor support.  The team began by embarking on a “discovery phase” that included conducting extensive research, interviewing requesters, agencies, and the advocacy community, and testing prototypes of possible functionality.  The discovery phase focused on four categories of potential functionality:  the ability to submit a request to any agency, interoperability (i.e., making the new portal work with other existing systems), generating status updates, and the option to search for already released records.

This report marks the completion of the discovery phase and highlights the team’s findings and recommendations for development.  Moving forward, we are building the National FOIA Portal using 18F’s agile approach to development and user-centered design research.  Work is divided into short periods of iteration called sprints.  During each sprint the scope of work is planned, executed, and tested with users in order to inform the next iteration (sprint).  “Agile” development focuses on iterative solutions guided by stakeholder feedback.  It also helps ensure that the final deliverables meet the actual needs of end users, which for this project includes both requesters and agencies. 

The work on this project is being done in the open (on Github), so that anyone can follow our work and provide feedback.  We urge you to follow our progress and participate.  One of our first priorities is a solution for portal interoperability with agencies’ existing case management systems.  We are particularly interested in feedback from agencies’ technical experts on the API schemas we are developing for the purpose of interoperability.  If your agency would like to participate, please send an e-mail to:  National.FOIAPortal@usdoj.gov. 

Topic(s): 
FOIA

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Updated September 20, 2017