Contributed by Larry Davidson, General Manager
If we have learned anything from recent events, it’s that we all need to prepare for the unexpected. While we may not anticipate the exact type of future event – be it a natural disaster, a health crisis, or even a high-interest community issue – we must do our best to protect ourselves and our interests.
For citizens, this means having extra staples from the grocery store on-hand, stocking up on batteries, and heeding any actionable information that will keep them safe. Though the preparation list is more comprehensive for a government, there is one area that must always be protected – transparency.
Transparency is a vital component to building the public trust between a government and the community it serves.
Everyone wants to live in a strong community that trusts its government to make smart decisions and do the right things. Though governments may not always live up to the high standard that their citizens expect from them, they must never fail when it comes to honest communication.
Governments must ensure that public trust remains intact, especially in times of crisis. This is easier said than done, though, because funding transparency efforts with tight budgets and limited resources presents a challenge for local governments.
Fortunately, technology such as JustFOIA earns its keep by filling that transparency gap between government and communities to create an environment of trust and accountability.
Building trust through transparency requires daily work, and JustFOIA is a digital partner built to assist municipalities in managing the growing need to fulfill records requests.
In looking at the requests JustFOIA customers are processing this year compared to last, we’ve already seen a 26% increase in the number of monthly requests received.
And as we’ve also seen, no community is immune to the possibility that theirs could be the next epicenter of national interest or importance. So, while a government may not know what type of event to prepare for, rest assured that it will see an increase in the number of public records requests surrounding that event.
That is where JustFOIA can save a government valuable human resources through automating some of the repetitive tasks involved in responding to requests, such as assignments, reminders, and communication with requesters and responders.
JustFOIA provides equal value by keeping requests organized with a quick dashboard at-a-glance status report and the confidence that the public trust is being upheld.
Part of managing records, too, is keeping them safe and secure. JustFOIA knows this because our team has been trusted by hundreds of local governments across the country to manage records for decades. One of the ways JustFOIA prioritized protecting the integrity of public documents is by partnering with the Microsoft Azure Government Cloud. It was built upon the foundational principles of security, privacy, and compliance.
JustFOIA’s physically isolated data centers and networks are located only in the U.S., and Azure Government Cloud employs world-class security and compliance services critical to the U.S. government.
A secure public portal is included with JustFOIA to instantly give governments and their community a transparent and easy-to-use document delivery system. This portal is continuously monitored and always available, no matter how much interest an event is getting.
This maximum level of security comes standard with JustFOIA because we believe governments shouldn’t pay extra for the confidence they deserve from their cloud-based partner.
With JustFOIA’s public portal, governments can avoid the unnecessary strain on their system that usually comes with a high-interest event. By proactively releasing and categorizing the public records for which it knows it’s going to receive multiple requests, governments not only save time, they also help build public trust. Transparency increases by making it easy for a community to access the documents they need, which helps them better understand and appreciate their government.
And in a time that many local governments are anticipating budget cuts, the phrase “doing more with less” is being heard everywhere. So, by providing the public an easy-to-navigate “self serve” option with JustFOIA, governments are showing fiscal responsibility by being more helpful with less effort.
With fewer resources and a rising workload added to preexisting responsibilities, governments must still ensure they are meeting the legal requirements of responding to records requests. So, it has never been more essential to simplify and streamline the public records request process.