Transparency and Open Government

27 04 2010

Another trend in public participation to watch is initiatives to improve transparency in government. Administrations at all levels of government (federal and local) have indicated a commitment to open processes and access to information. This is necessary to combat the extremely low levels of public trust in government as well as the increased accessibility to information via new media.

Leadership that endorses transparency establishes a tone that public involvement has a significant role to play in today’s government. However, public skepticism abounds when it appears that decisions are made behind closed doors with political influences and interests taking precedent over the ways in which a decision might impact people or improve their lives.

Policies on paper won’t necessarily be fully implemented overnight, but I suggest the following commitments as a starting point:

  • Be transparent about the decision-making process, including who, when and how a decision will be made
  • Be transparent about what points in the decision-making process public input can influence the outcome
  • Be transparent by providing access to information about various points of view and implications of the decision-making options
  • Be transparent by providing information relevant to citizens using plain English and explaining the potential impacts of a decision on various stakeholder groups

There is still much to do in terms of building trust and credibility among elected officials and government agencies. Transparency is key to winning back the public’s confidence. What commitments or practical steps would you expect from administrations promising transparency in government?