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Meet POIA: "Public Means Online" Becomes a Bill

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, March 16 2010

If you were at PdF '09 in New York City, you heard the idea floated that "public means online." In other words, if the law or regulation requires some document or other resource to be "public," you can no longer get away with stuffing it in some filing cabinet that citizens have to make an appointment to go see. You gotta put it online.

Here's a neat development in that space. The Sunlight Foundation just announced this morning that Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) is introducing the Public Online Information Act -- or, naturally, POIA -- today.* In brief, POIA would require that within three years, federal agencies will have switched to the presumption that what they publish is accessible online, and that a federal advisory committee will be established to ensure that "public means online" is an operating principle that all three branches of the federal government abide by. (Using the Freedom of Information Act's shorthand as a guide, the correct pronounciation of POIA should be "poy-ah.")

Sunlight put together the below video to explain the whys and hows of POIA. The bill is expected to head to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by New York Democrat Ed Towns.

*Note: Our Andrew Rasiej and Micah Sifry are senior advisors to the Sunlight Foundation. And if I'm remembering correctly, it was Andrew who kicked off the thinking on "public means online" at the conference.

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