Festival-goers invited to embrace freedom of information in the age of new media

News release: 8 July 2011

Kevin Dunion, the Scottish Information Commissioner, is to chair an event at the Scottish Parliament's Festival of Politics 2011, on 26 August 2011, on how the internet has affected access to information.

Entitled , the FREE seminar will debate how the internet has changed the way in which people make freedom of information (FOI) requests, and access information from public authorities - and what this means for citizens' relationship with politicians and government.

A panel of experienced information rights specialists will address issues such as: Has the internet changed how we ask for information?; Has it made it easier, or more difficult?; Are we being provided with what we want to see, or just what public authorities want us to see?

Attendees will hear from local Edinburgh man, Michael Traill, who became interested in FOI when asking Lothian and Borders police for information some years ago, and now regularly makes FOI requests online, sharing the information he obtains on his blog and in the local press. There will also be live demonstrations of websites which take raw government data and use it to provide new and useful services for the public. For example, www.tellmescotland.gov.uk is based on an archive of Scottish public notices and allows members of the public to check e.g. local planning notices in their area, or roadworks on a route they plan to travel.

The event will round up with a chance to discuss the issues raised with a panel including the Commissioner and speakers, chaired by Kirstie Shirra, a freelance campaigner who started out on her career as Scotland's only full time FOI lobbyist, when she was at Friends of the Earth Scotland.

The Commissioner said:

"The internet and new media are rapidly changing how we experience the world around us, and freedom of information is no exception to that. New technology and FOI rights, combined together, have the potential to redefine the relationship between ordinary citizens and the politicians they elect, by putting more information than ever before into our hands. At our seminar, people will hear about how this is happening, right now, first hand.

"I am delighted to be invited to take part in the Scottish Parliament's Festival of Politics for the second year running. It is a great event, bringing the world of politics closer to the people in an imaginative and informative way."

The seminar is taking place in Committee Room 3 of the Scottish Parliament, from 13:30 to 14:30, on Friday 26 August 2011. FREE spaces can be booked as follows:

  • Online from www.festivalofpolitics.org.uk
  • By telephone: 0131 473 2000 (calls via RNID Typetalk: 18001 0131 473 2000)
  • By post: to the Festival of Politics, Hub Tickets, The Hub, Castlehill, Edinburgh, EH1 2NE.
  • In person: The Scottish Parliament or The Hub.


For further information contact the Commissioner's Media Team on 01334 464610, out of hours on 07976 511752, or email media@itspublicknowledge.info

Notes to editors

About the Scottish Information Commissioner

  • Kevin Dunion was appointed as the first Scottish Information Commissioner in February 2003. In February 2008 he was reappointed for a second, and final term, for four years until 2012.
  • He is responsible for enforcing and promoting Scotland's freedom of information laws. Kevin has now entered his final year as Commissioner.
  • Kevin is Co-Director of the Centre for Freedom of Information, a joint venture with the Dundee School of Law. He is also Rector of the University of St Andrews.

About the Festival of Politics

  • This will be the seventh annual Festival of Politics, hosted by the Scottish Parliament every August.
  • This year's Festival, which runs from 20-27 August 2011, presents a diverse programme of events bringing together politics, media and the arts through performance, discussion and debate. Find out more about the Festival and view this year's full programme at www.festivalofpolitics.org.uk

Last year's seminar

  • The Scottish Information Commissioner took part in the Festival of Politics for the first time in 2010, with a sell-our seminar entitled "Freedom of Information - what difference has it made?"
  • At the event, the Commissioner discussed what had been achieved by FOI since it came into force in 2005. He was joined by a panel of people who had successfully used FOI to make a difference in their own communities and beyond.
  • You can read about the event, and of the panellists talking about their experiences.

About this year's seminar and speakers

View the seminar programme and download the event poster:

  • Michael Traill is a member of the public, and a regular user of Scotland's FOI laws.
  • Ben Plouviez is Head of Information Services at The Scottish Government, responsible for information management strategy and policy.
  • Bill Roberts is a co-founder of Swirrl, a Scottish linked and open source data consultancy.
  • Kirstie Shirra is a freelance campaigner, who lobbied the Scottish Parliament for an FOI law when working for Friends of the Earth Scotland.

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