Etichettato: research

[RESEARCH] The relation between transparency and accountability

As part of our research efforts, here’s the another update on the most important research on FOI and open data all over the world, by our intern Alexandre Salha, a researcher who worked on access to information in his native Lebanon.

transparencyaccountability

In his chapter of Oxford Handbook of Public Accountability, Pr. Meijer defines the relation between Transparency and Accountability – globally known as T/A – which he can resume in three cause-and-effect equations:

  • Transparency for horizontal accountability

  • Transparency for vertical accountability

  • Transparency for less accountability

However, these three levels are most probably applied in a proper context of availability of information, which people can process in order to have an impact on the government and public institutions.

Before tackling this issue, he starts with a theoretical and historical approach of the topic showing how the idea of openness and therefore transparency became a universal acknowledgement.

Although it is a basic requirement for democracies, government transparency – especially with the Freedom of Information Act – is moving from liberal to new democracies and even non-democratic countries as stated by Meijer. Enhancing transparency increases accountability, helps curbing corruption and connects citizens with the government and the decision-making process.

According to Meijer, “both the eye of God and the public eyes convey the idea that we are being watched and, therefore, we should behave.”

This was one of the outcomes of the French revolution – concretized years later with the Freedom of Information Act – against philosophers claiming that “the integrity of the state would be undermined by transparency”. Even though the FOIA became popular, it should shift from a passive to a proactive legislation, with the assistance of new technologies introduced in public institutions.

In order to do so and to have an efficient impact, Pr. Meijer defined three perspectives on transparency:

  • As a virtue

  • As a relation

  • As a system

These three perspectives are essential for accountability as they form a complete triangle of interaction, as mentioned in this chapter: “Transparency is defined as the availability of information about an actor allowing other actors to monitor the workings or performance of this actor.”

And now a question to you: Under which circumstances transparency leads to accountability without distorting the public trust, the democratization process and the people’s engagement in public affairs?

[RESEARCH] Making Transparency Stick: The Dynamics of Open Data

As part of our research efforts, here’s the another update on the most important research on FOI and open data all over the world, by our intern Alexandre Salha, a researcher who worked on access to information in his native Lebanon. Today’s analysis focuses on the effectiveness of open data policy, as explored in a paper by researcher Ben Worthy.

#opengov (publicity, accountability, transparency) venn diagram - Foto di Justin Grimes (CC BY-SA 2.0)https://www.flickr.com/photos/notbrucelee/6166628554
#opengov (publicity, accountability, transparency) venn diagram – Foto di Justin Grimes (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In this paper, Ben Worthy identifies – based on the UK reform – the indicators of successful and/or failing Open Data policies.

In fact, he argues, the fate of these policies depends on the synergy built between enactment and post-enactment. Plus “policy feedback” plays an important role in assessing the impact of any reform. A strong feedback is able to build collective support among all involved actors to remake politics.

The Open Data policy in this paper is summarized under the UK’s Transparency Agenda which includes sub-policies:

  • Publishing spending data

  • Publishing service data

  • Platforms

  • Running experiments

  • Legal reforms

  • Charters and international agreements

During the enactment phase, Worthy identifies the Vision, the Symbolism and the Mechanics of Open Data policy.

First, “the vision of Open Data is powerful yet vague”. Under the umbrella of transparency, it has political, social and economic impacts on the nation as a whole. It can be used to promote more accountability, to develop public participation and/or to enhance economic growth and innovation. Hence Open Data is also unclear.

Some mistaken thoughts about technology of Open Data being as a solution for political problems are made, a very deterministic thought, standing between technology of Open Data and the politics of Open Government.

Second, Open Data is a symbolic policy yet voteless. According to Worthy, it offers on one side, transformative opportunities to remake politics under the democratic values, such as accountability, participation and empowerment; but, on the other side, although it attracts political support, it bring no electoral advantages.

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