My favourite public authority, the North Wales Police are experts at such procedures; in that they publish responses in read only PDF formats so if I wish to include a copy of the published response in a blog I either copy it word by word or scan the whole document.
It was therefore a pleasure to read the announcement made yesterday by Francis Maude MP that all FOI responses are to be made machine readable and more accessible:
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude told the Conservative party conference in Birmingham that the Freedom of Information Act will be amended so that all data released through FoI must be in a reusable and machine readable format.
The change in the law will mean that FoI data is "available to everyone and able to be exploited for social and commercial purposes", he said on 3 October 2010.
This means using formats such as .csv, an open spreadsheet format, or .xls, which is used by Microsoft's Excel – but not the portable document format. PDFs can only be opened as visual files, with software such as spreadsheets unable to extract the actual information.
...""We want to go much further," he told delegates. "Thousands of commercial and social entrepreneurs have been frustrated by their inability to obtain and reuse datasets. I'm sorry to say that some councils spend time and money deliberately making data unusable to anyone else."
HT to Heather Brooke @newsbrooke