15 Tips to Make FOI a Breeze

It was a pleasure to speak at the 2023 AMCTO Information, Access, and Privacy Forum yesterday, where I presented “15 Tips to Make FOI a Breeze”.

The forum was hosted by Stephen O’Brien, City Clerk at the City of Guelph and featured a number of FOI thought leaders. Presentations included a keynote on “Maintaining Citizens’ Trust in a Complex Digital World” from Patricia Kosseim, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, and an “MFIPPA Privacy Update” from David Goodis, former acting Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario and author of the highly recommended text Annotated Ontario Freedom of Information and Protection.

As laid out in my presentation yesterday, the “15 Tips to Make FOI a Breeze” are as follows:

  1. Know Your Reference Materials
  2. Use File Opening & Closing Worksheets
  3. Printed Aides: Find Them or Make Them
  4. Easy Index of Records
  5. Master the Affected Person Process
  6. Do Interim Fee Estimates
  7. Manage Request Wording Changes
  8. Requirements for Written Notices
  9. Researching Decisions
  10. How To Decode Decision Names
  11. Important Exceptions to the Exemptions
  12. Advantages of Paper Disclosure
  13. Action Plan for Large Requests
  14. Can You Proceed Informally?
  15. Use FOI Software

Many of these tips will be familiar to regular readers of this site!

For anyone who attended yesterday’s talk, thank you so much for coming. I would love to hear from you and would definitely appreciate any feedback you might have. If you would like a copy of the presentation deck from yesterday, please get in touch using the contact page here on the FOI Assist Knowledge Base.

The FOI Assist Software

Of course, the last of the “15 Tips” might just be the most important one of all: Use FOI software! With the right FOI software, many of the other tips become obsolete. If you are using the FOI Assist software, for example, there’s no need to use FOI File Opening and Closing Worksheets to make your year-end statistical report easier, or to rely on printed aides to track deadlines.

I encourage you to request a live demonstration of the FOI Assist software right now and see what it can do!

Published by Justin Petrillo

I have created the FOI Assist™ software to help Ontario’s provincial and municipal government institutions of all sizes track and respond to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. For most of my career I have been a lawyer, advising clients on commercial, intellectual property and FOI/privacy issues. From 2013 to 2015, I managed the FOI program for the Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan Am Games Organizing Committee while serving as Legal Counsel to the Games. Prior to becoming a lawyer, I obtained a computer science degree and worked as a software developer at several well-known technology companies.

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