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How Open Data Fosters Government Accountability

When open data proponents talk about the benefits of opening government data, they highlight the positive environmental impact and greater efficiency in government. Another gain that many municipalities and jurisdictions see from open data implementation is increased government accountability.

Marketing , Opendatasoft
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Open government data encourages greater civic participation, which in turn leads citizens to demand that government officials and agencies take more responsibility for their actions and the outcomes of them – once the public can see how their dollars are being spent, they’ll be more vocal about where their money should go.

Although some open data advocates would like to believe that the concept of making information (especially that created by governments) is new, they’re incorrect. Open government is an essential part of democracy.

Freedom of information (FOI) laws in many countries enable citizens to request details from the government about decisions made by authorities. There are also other laws requiring that lawmakers or officials announce conflicts of interest or make other important disclosures after passing legislation or regulations. And election financing laws in many democracies shed light on who’s donating to campaigns and how much.

In April 2015, the Pew Research Center published a study about American attitudes towards open government data. The authors of the study discovered that many respondents have high hopes for opening government data.

Fifty-six percent of those surveyed believed that government data would enable journalists to cover government activities more thoroughly. Fifty-three percent said that open government data would make officials more accountable to the public. Almost half of the 3,212 American adults surveyed commented that government data would improve the services government offers, while 48 percent stated that open data lets citizens have a greater impact on government affairs.

“Sixty six percent of Americans hope that government data will boost its accountability”

A little less than half of survey respondents held that open data would lead to better decisions by officials. When the survey authors combined the answers of everyone who believed open data would have a positive effect on government, they calculated that 66% of Americans hope that government data will boost its accountability.

Across the world, citizens have been using open data to demand more of their elected officials.

After Indonesia’s 2014 election, a campaign called “Guard the Election” was launched to investigate accusations of vote rigging. A group of technology experts and volunteers created a website that allowed citizens to compare official vote tallies with those tabulated from polling stations. Researchers learned that citizens felt their actions had an impact and the campaign increased their trust in the official tallies.

“Researchers learned that citizens felt their actions had an impact and the campaign increased their trust in official tallies”

Afghanistan has also had a rocky road to democracy. Open data released in the wake of the 2009 election showed massive fraud. As a result, officials were forced to hold a runoff. Voter fraud marred the 2014 elections, too, leading to a recount.

open data is an important tool to increase government accountability. Freeing government data is the first step. To make the open data process smooth and hassle-free, contact us.

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