In 2012, the Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC) began exploring the possibility of an automated online requesting
process for the Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000 (PAIA) in South Africa. Adapting the MySociety
technology “Alaveteli”, we pursued the implementation of a solution, but struggled to find any comprehensive reviews
that could provide insight into user experiences of PAIA. To address this, we have undertaken a comprehensive
review of PAIA users and non-users, and in so doing gained invaluable insight into South Africa’s access to information
Access to information is not a reality for most South African citizens. PAIA — the law created to help realise our constitutional right of access to information — is poorly implemented and under-utilised. In 2012, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) reported that fewer than 15% of audited institutions had specifically budgeted for PAIA implementation and compliance requirements since 2008. This patent reflection of the lack of institutionalisation of the law within government departments was the context in which ODAC first considered automating the process for requesting information (the project was initiated in 2013). That lack of prioritisation is reflected in the state’s subsequent performance in relation to PAIA: in the 2012 reporting period, the PAIA Civil Society Network (of which ODAC is an active member) noted that only 16% of requests resulted in the release of requested information, and more disturbingly, 54% of requests simply remained unanswered.
An Infographic Summary of our Research for Download