Alaveteli is free Social Email software

It’s a simple concept: citizens use Alaveteli to request information, and the replies are recorded for all to see on the website. The project’s initial focus is on making Freedom of Information requests, although it can easily be altered for other purposes. Funded by the Open Society Institute and the Hivos Foundation, in its first year the project aims to support the launch of dozens of FOI websites around the world. We’ve already helped sites launch in Kosovo, Brazil, and the EU.

Historic requests, along with any resulting correspondence, are archived publicly online. This increases the availability of the requested information, and encourages transparency. Therefore, Alaveteli acts both as a useful tool for citizens, and as an advocacy tool for right-to-know campaigners.

What next?

Currently, customising a new site using Alaveteli requires technical know-how.  We are working to change this over the next few months.  We also have resources to support a small number of new websites as hosted services.

Groups who want to set up an Alaveteli website should note that its success depends on more than just deploying the software: it requires constant maintenance to ensure requests are successfully dealt with (whether from technical, usability or legal points of view).  The project will therefore also develop a set of best practices for the human side of a successful FOI website.  To start with, we have a blog post describing the importance of volunteers.

The software started life as WhatDoTheyKnow, a website produced by mySociety for making FOI requests in the UK.  Its history and background are described over there. The development of Alaveteli is currently managed by Louise Crow of mySociety.