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The FOI Advocate is a compendium of ideas, edited story excerpts and other materials from a variety of Web sites, as well as original concepts and analysis. When the information comes directly from another source, it will be attributed and a link will be provided whenever possible. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited. We will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

How do you define transparency?

The following essay from GovernmentExecutive.com provides an interesting look at what federal agencies really think about transparency. The story refers to a survey in which 90 percent of 452 federal managers "viewed transparency as providing facts and figures on project results and findings," not necessarily providing the supporting data and documents behind results. Only 26 percent considered providing meeting minutes in their definition of transparency.

When President Obama issued his Day One memos instructing members of his administration to operate under principles of openness to spur citizen engagement, government watchdogs cheered. They hailed the call - a nod to his campaign promise to make government more transparent - as unprecedented and said it was a welcome change from the past eight years.

But in the weeks since Obama's pledge that transparency would be a touchstone of his presidency, policy watchers have turned their attention to the details. What exactly is government transparency? How is it interpreted by those inside government who need to execute it? How will it be measured? What will it look like to the public?

Those questions are hard to answer, and the responses depend largely on who you are. Academics and good government advocates believe agencies should provide their raw data and internal evaluations of policies so the public can dig into the information to find answers to their own questions. Others believe agencies must impose order to the data so the public can easily draw conclusions. Still others believe the Obama administration should choose to show the results of programs and initiatives, and not provide the supporting data, documents or internal discussions on the thinking behind their decisions or what led to a particular outcome.

More here.

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