Many of you may not know that March 16, 2019 is National Freedom of Information Day, a day honoring President James Madison, the father of the U.S. Constitution and staunch advocate for open records. It should come as no surprise then that National Freedom of Information Day just so happens to fall during Sunshine Week, a week of nationwide celebration and promotion of government transparency and open records. A week of reminding us of our right to know what our government is doing.
While initiated by the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 2005 to emphasize the rights of the media to have access to and report on government data, it is by no means limited to the interest of journalist or reporters. Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and similar open records or “sunshine” laws in all 50 states, any person, group, or organization has a right to request and receive documents relevant to the inner workings of government agencies. These laws are our way of holding our public servants accountable. Lest we forget that their priority is to represent the interests of us, the citizens.
In these times, government transparency, at all levels, is more important than ever. In the words of Madison in 1822, “A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or perhaps both,” and “knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
At ZyLAB, we know that technology can solve the government transparency problem and have been providing solutions to agencies across the nation to help them make public records easily accessible.