Northern Ireland 22nd August 2018

NI Open Government Network Blog – Open government and transparency are positives to be embraced not inconvenient requirements

by Connor McLean

Written by Peter Osborne

Open government and transparency is not just a nifty phrase and something to be said because government is required to do it.

Transparency is important; and it is valuable and empowering.

Unfortunately recent events have meant there has been little debate about the reasons why government should welcome transparency. Instead the debate has been about how people have been found out.  Accountability is indeed one of the benefits of transparency but there are many other reasons that are positive for government, policy and relationships between government and the citizens it serves.

Here are three positive reasons for openness and transparency in government:

  1. It develops trust within government and between government and the people that are governed. Good government should want its citizens – the people it serves – to be active and positive contributors to society and the policies that shape it.  Trust between citizens and government is critical.  Trust is eroded when people think they are not being treated fairly, openly, consistently or with the public interest at the heart of decision-making.
  2. People get more engaged and better engaged in government and politics; ultimately coming to have greater respect for politics and government structures The consequence of that may be better policy development, and the public and government could get to the same page over many issues.
  3. As data is released more quickly and comprehensively it encourages innovation; as more people have access to data new ideas are generated including how to do things differently and better. Everyone benefits as does the economy.

These are worthwhile goals.  People in government, whether civil servants or politicians, should understand them and in doing so they may embrace transparency as leading to better government rather than an inconvenient requirement.

The Open Government Network is holding a fascinating conference on 13th September to explore many of these issues in the light of recent events.

Here is the programme. Demand has been high but there are still places available. Why not come along?

NI Open Government Conference: Transparency for Accountability