Transparency in the Open Government Era: Friends or Foes?

Transparency in the Open Government Era: Friends or Foes?

Evika Karamagioli (Paris 8 University, France)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3637-8.ch001
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Abstract

The decline in citizen engagement in the public sphere has long been one of the main challenges of modern government. Issues of trust, openness, and transparency are being frequently and intensely discussed as the public manifests lack of confidence in public servants and governmental institutions. The advent and development of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) is gradually revolutionizing this situation. Open government is an innovative strategy for changing how government works, helping to increase government transparency and accountability at every level. By using network technology to connect the public to government and to one another informed by open data, governments ask for help with solving problems. The end result is more effective institutions and more robust democracy. The chapter has as an objective to discuss on a theoretical level the role of open government mechanisms in introducing a new relation between citizens and policy makers.
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Open Government Mechanisms: A Mean To Enhance Transparency And Accountability In Governmental Activity

The OECD defines open government as ‘the transparency of government actions, the accessibility of government services and information, and the responsiveness of government to new ideas, demands, and needs’ (OECD, 2005). Together, these three building blocks are seen to support a number of benefits for government and societies: improving the evidence base for policy making, strengthening integrity, discouraging corruption, and building public trust in government (OECD, 2005).

Open Government can be a “transformative” tool in that it offers the potential to reformulate transparency as more than a “stabilizing factor.” Web 2.0 technologies level the playing field of public dialogue in unprecedented ways as they allocate communicative tools in a more egalitarian manner. The public therefore gains significantly more leverage not only concerning access to information but also interpreting and disseminating such information without recourse to conventional democratic and societal structures (Heckmann, 2011).

Figure 1 illustrates in a simplified manner how such an ideal information flow might look, with information requests (dashed arrows) leading to information provision (black arrows).

Figure 1.

Information flows in an ideal open government system (Gavelin, Burall, & Wilson, 2009)

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