I want to tell you about YouRTI.in, a startup platform that lets any citizen submit right-to-information (RTI) requests simply and conveniently. We file and follow up on the requests and post the responses online. The platform lets people post anonymously, if they wish, and at no cost. The aim is to make it almost as simple as posting on a social network (or this forum!).
The idea for YouRTI.in was born out of my deep interest in government transparency and accountability, and the belief that ordinary citizens can effect change. I originally envisioned it as a feature of a news portal where we would crowdsource RTI requests, but it also seemed like it could be a standalone business.
What need is it filling?
There are many ways in which we would like our government to work better for us. We want politicians to be more responsive to our needs and accountable for their actions. We want the bureaucracy to be more efficient. When traffic lights don’t work, when cities flood, or when laws are passed that make no sense, wouldn’t it be great if we could just ask about it? When were the lights last checked? What are the flood preparation plans?
With that information we can then start holding people and institutions accountable. Of course, getting the information can be challenging. That’s exactly why YouRTI.in exists. Anyone can just ask the question, and not need to worry about where to send the question, what to do when it doesn’t get a response and how to follow-up further.
YouRTI.in will also benefit the government by allowing people to see whether the information they seek has already been requested, thus cutting down on multiple requests for the same information.
How does one use YouRTI.in?
When you come to the Web site, YouRTI.in, click on Requests and it takes you to a page where you choose whether to be anonymous or sign in.
If you don’t want anyone to know that you submitted the request, choose Anonymous. We don’t track you in any way.
Next, you fill in the request details. We have a wizard that takes you through it step by step. Or you can choose to do it all on one screen. Here is a screenshot of the single-screen form.
- If you know which government agency would have the information, select it, or else there is an option to select Unknown.
- Type in a short summary subject for the request.
- Ask your questions in detail.
- Click submit!
We then review the request, select the appropriate agency if necessary, and send the request. When we receive a response, we post it online.
A special role for activists
In addition to letting people submit RTI requests, YouRTI.in offers all those civic-minded RTI activists who have already been asking the government questions to upload their archives of responses. YouRTI.in will classify and categorize the responses, extract the text, and make them searchable. RTI activists can also submit the same request to multiple agencies at once, such as to all the states or multiple ministries.
What’s the business model?
The service is free to all individuals who file public-interest requests. News organizations, research institutes and legal firms that want advanced search and bulk download capabilities will need to subscribe. If an individual wants to submit a request that is of personal interest, for example such as exam results, passport or land matters, pension details, we will file those for a fee.
I hope you all give it a try at YouRTI.in. It really should just take under five minutes. And I would love to get your feedback!