Fung outlines principles for democratic transparency and open government

Archon Fung has published a new paper” [PDF] on open government, information and democracy. The abstract includes a useful breakdown of the components of democratic transparency:

In Infotopia, citizens enjoy a wide range of information about the organizations
upon which they rely for the satisfaction of their vital interests. The provision of
that information is governed by principles of democratic transparency. Democratic
transparency both extends and critiques current enthusiasms about transparency. It
urges us to conceptualize information politically, as a resource to turn the behavior of
large organizations in socially beneficial ways. Transparency efforts have targets, and we
should think of those targets as large organizations: public and civic, but especially private
and corporate. Democratic transparency consists of four principles. First, information
about the operations and actions of large organizations that affect citizens’ interests
should be rich, deep, and readily available to the public. Second, the amount of available
information should be proportionate to the extent to which those organizations
jeopardize citizens’ interests. Third, information should be organized and provided in
ways that are accessible to individuals and groups that use that information. Finally, the
social, political, and economic structures of society should be organized in ways that
allow individuals and groups to take action based on Infotopia’s public disclosures.

Fung’s paper focuses on focus upon “information about the activities of
large organizations—especially corporations and governments—rather than individuals” and “the important, defensive, face of the informational problem: information that people need to protect themselves against the actions of large organizations and to navigate the terrain created by such organizations,” as opposed to the myriad positive uses of open government data.

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