Growing FOIA Requests and a Technological Solution

The irrational rationality behind technology as a solution to technological problems, when talking about Freedom of Information request, cannot go unnoticed.  In the past, there were two ways to communicate information: handwritten or verbal, either in person or a phone call.  Today, there are many more ways of communicating than ever before, with emails, tweets, and texts and as a result, a FOIA request now has a considerable amount of documents.  It is ironic that the solution to a technology problem is technology, but technological advancement is the direction the world has taken.

The Richmond Times reports that the increase in communication through email has created a high cost for FOIA requests for the Virginia State government.  Costs come from high fees of specialized IT professionals to search for one topic in a voluminous amount of emails.  According to Maria J.K. Everett, executive director of the state’s FOIA Council, “in the Richmond area sometimes quote prices of hundreds or thousands of dollars to produce sets of emails.”

We can solve this problem of having too many emails for a non-specialized IT professional to filter through by implementing software.  There are solutions out on the market that can manage and audit digital documents in the same fashion an IT specialist can.  These solutions can easily identify target topics, pull the information, and remove duplicate information. reports that 15 of the federal agencies, which process the most request under the Freedom of Information Act, are still falling short of providing information in a timely manner.  The article reiterates the fact that with technological investments an agency can meet FOIA requests easier and quicker.

“Technology not only helps the requester—the public—when they’re looking for information, but it really can help the agency as well—manage the records better, respond faster, communicate with other agencies or departments,” said Sean Moulton, Center for Effective Government.

Open government and Transparency demands will continue to grow.  Public demands for quicker responses will also continue to grow as they become accustomed to instant information.  Government agency will need to seek other solutions then currently implemented to meet these demands and evidence shows the answer to the problem of technological advancement is technology.

To read more from the Richmond Times, “Email a challenge for FOIA request” click here

To read more from, “How agencies can use technology to meet and exceed FOIA requests” click here