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If your question isn't answered here, or you just wanted to let us know something about the site, contact us.
Information officer questions #
- I just got here from bottom of an ATI request, what is going on? #
Sobanukirwa is a service run by a civil society organisation to help ordinary members of the public make access to information (ATI) requests, and easily track and share the responses.
The ATI request you received was made by someone using Sobanukirwa. You can simply reply to the request as you would any other request from an individual. The only difference is that your response will be automatically published on the Internet.
If you have privacy or other concerns, please read the answers below. You might also like to read the introduction to Sobanukirwa to find out more about what the site does from the point of view of a user. You can also search the site to find the authority that you work for, and view the status of any requests made using the site.
Finally, we welcome comments and thoughts from information officers, please get in touch.
- Why are you publishing responses to ATI requests? #
- We think there are lots of benefits. Most importantly it will encourage the public to be more interested and involved in the work of government. We also hope that it will reduce the number of duplicate requests on any subject that a public body will receive. Given that access to information responses contain public information, which anybody could easily request again from the public authority, we think there should be no reason not to publish it widely.
- Are the people making requests real people? #
- Yes. For the purposes of keeping track of responses we use computer-generated email addresses for each request. However, before they can send a request, each user must register on the site with a unique email address that we then verify. You can search this site and find a page listing all requests that each person has made.
- An email isn't a sufficient address for an ATI request! #
- Yes it is. Rwanda's 2013 access to information law states that information can "be requested by an individual or a group of persons in any of the official languages provided for by the Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda verbally, in writing, by telephone, internet or any other means of communication without prejudice to the provisions of this Law".
- Aren't you making lots of vexatious requests? #
Sobanukirwa is not making any requests. We are sending requests on behalf of our users, who are real people making the requests.
Look at it like this - if lots of different people made requests from different Hotmail email addresses, then you would not think that Microsoft were making vexatious requests. It is exactly the same if lots of requests are made via Sobanukirwa. Moreover, since all requests are public it is much easier for you to see if one of our users is making vexatious requests.
- I can see a request on Sobanukirwa, but we never got it by email!#
If a request appears on the site, then we have attempted to send it to the authority by email. Any delivery failure messages will automatically appear on the site. You can check the address we're using with the "View ATI email address" link which appears on the page for the authority. Contact us if there is a better address we can use.
Requests are sometimes not delivered because they are quietly removed by "spam filters" in the IT department of the authority. Authorities can make sure this doesn't happen by asking their IT departments to "whitelist" any email from @sobanukirwa.rw. If you ask us we will resend any request, and/or give technical details of delivery so an IT department can chase up what happened to the message.
Finally, you can respond to any request from your web browser, without needing any email, using the "respond to request" link at the bottom of each request page.
- How do you calculate the deadline shown on request pages?#
The access to information law says:
An information officer shall make a decision on a request for information as soon as possible. However, the time limit shall not exceed three working (3) days from the date of receipt of the application.
However, the time may be shortened as follows:
1° where the information sought concerns the life or liberty of a person, the information shall be provided within twenty-four (24) hours from the receipt of the request;
2° where the information is sought by a journalist for the purposes of news gathering, the information shall be provided within two (2) days from the receipt of the request.
If the information officer wants an extension of the period of time, the law states that "an information officer shall request to the competent organ the extension of the time limit for the provision of information in any of the official languages verbally, in writing and any other means of technology without prejudice to the provisions of Laws".
The full text of the law can be found in official Gazette no 10 of 11.03.2013 on the website of the Office of the Prime Minister.
- But really, how do you calculate the deadline?#
Please read the answer to the previous question first. Legally, authorities must respond promptly to ATI requests. If they fail to do that, it is best if they show the hard work they are doing by explaining what is taking the extra time to do.
- How can I send a large file, which won't go by email?#
- Instead of email, you can respond to a request directly from your web browser, including uploading a file. To do this, choose "respond to request" at the bottom of the request's page. Contact us if it is too big for even that (more than, say, 50Mb).
- Why do you publish the names of civil servants and the text of emails? #
- We consider what officers or servants do in the course of their employment to be public information. We will only remove content in exceptional circumstances, see our take down policy.
- Do you publish email addresses or mobile phone numbers? #
To prevent spam, we automatically remove most emails and some mobile numbers from responses to requests. Please contact us if we've missed one. For technical reasons we don't always remove them from attachments, such as certain PDFs.
If you need to know what an address was that we've removed, please get in touch with us. Occasionally, an email address forms an important part of a response and we will post it up in an obscured form in an annotation.
- What is your policy on copyright of documents?#
- The access to information law is "applicant blind", so anyone in the world can request the same document and get a copy of it. If you think our making a document available on the internet infringes your copyright, you may contact us and ask us to take it down. However, to save tax payers' money by preventing duplicate requests, and for good public relations, we'd advise you not to do that.