future of democracy | April 17, 2011

David Eaves: Open Government, A Great Idea Under Attack

David Eaves, one of the most articulate voices advocating for government transparency, has written a thought-provoking blog post about how fragile and tenuous the politics of transparency really is. Many of Eaves’ colleaguesargue that a transparent government, once established, would be permanent. The reasoning goes like this: no government would ever roll back transparency and, therefore, risk appearing more opaque in the eyes of constituents. But, Eaves argues, last week’s high profile US budget negotiations between Congress and the White House should “lay that theory to rest. Permanently.” Make no mistake: Open government is a great idea, but it's not a given. It’s not enough to say it should exist because it’s “the right thing to do.” People have to actively broadcast its benefits. “It’s easy to kill something that no one uses,” Eaves writes. “It’s much, much harder to kill something that has a community that uses it, especially if that community and the products it creates are valued by society more generally.”

Here’s More from David Eaves' blog:
[U]nsurprisingly, it turns out that political transparency initiatives—even when they are online— are as bound to the realities of traditional politics as dot.com's were bound by the realities of traditional economics. It's not enough to get a policy created or an initiative launched—it needs to have a community, a group of interested supporters, to nurture and protect it. Otherwise, it will be at risk…

This is why open data needs users, it needs developers, think tanks and above all, the media, to take interest in it and to leverage it to create content. It's also why I've tried to create projects like Emitter.ca, recollect.net, taxicity and others, because the more value we create with open data for everyone, the more secure government transparency policies will be.
Photo by Joi, via Flickr, CC 2.0

Read more about government speaker David Eaves

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