Council wants access to FOIP protected requests

311resizedA plan is in place to improve Calgary's 3-1-1 services after the standing policy committee on Utilities and Corporate Services met on Jan. 23.

3-1-1 is a phone service provided by the City of Calgary that allows citizens to ask questions, file complaints and make other service requests.

Ald. Peter Demong of Ward 14 moved for approval of the plan, which went undisputed, after only 11 minutes of questions and discussion. There were no comments from members of the public and only two questions from aldermen.

In October 2012, city council directed a committee to contact stakeholders and create the plan of action put before council on Jan. 23. The plan articulates a timeline for five areas of improvement that will make 3-1-1 services better.

Five points to improve 3-1-1

  • Self-service tools: Improved web and mobile service will allow citizens to make and track requests online.
  • Plain language: Improvements will be made to eliminate complicated and technical language from 3-1-1 services.
  • Software integration:  Combining two different software systems currently used by city departments and 3-1-1 services.
  • Review accountability: The city will review existing performance measures to make sure 3-1-1 services are accountable to citizens.
  • Council access: Aldermen expressed interest in getting more access to information about 3-1-1 calls, so a review of privacy regulation will be critical as the project moves forward.

311Council wants greater access to the personal information of 3-1-1 callers, arguing that it will help them to better address requests.

Photo illustration by Michael Coles
FOIP access

When 3-1-1 services were implemented in the early 2000s, it was decided that council could not obtain detailed information about specific requests due to privacy of information regulation.

Personal information used in 3-1-1 services is heavily protected. Even within the service, an employee from one department would not be allowed to see a request file from a different department.

Ward 4 Ald. Gael MacLeod voiced concerns that council would be better able to serve the public if they were able to marry data from 3-1-1 requests with requests made to aldermanic offices.

This restriction of information is a problem across Canada, though not so much in the United States says Terry Pearce, a manager at 3-1-1 services.

Council last received an update on the project in November, and city administration is required to report back to council with another progress report no later than May 2013.

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