Agency Perspectives on Online Public Records Request Portals


Spurred by converging trends facilitated by the interactive web, government agencies are moving to digitize and make more transparent the public record request (PRR) process via dual-facing online portals. Such portals, often provided by third-party vendors as SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions, are built on the premise and promise of helping agencies streamline their internal workflows while aiding requesters through the sometimes labyrinthine process of accessing public records. This research aims to study the effects and efficacy of such portals from the agency perspective, both at the process level and in a broader sense of reshaping the relationship between citizen and government. Set within a contextual framework of the trends from which these portals have emerged, a survey of 54 U.S. public jurisdictions suggests that online portals are significantly improving agencies’ internal and external processes of receiving, tracking, and responding to requests for public records, but do not necessarily bring correlative improvement in their overall relationship with citizens for a number of possible reasons.