why transparency is bad news for eGov practitioners

Let’s take a more concrete look at the implications of transparency as eGovernment driver.
Remember the previous post:

A mathematical explanation of this discussion « Benchmarking e-gov in web 2.0

Put it bluntly: if transparency is the new driver of eGovernment, that’s bad news for eGov decision-makers, because it means SMALLER EGOVERNMENT BUDGETS.

Putting services online meant: databases, middleware, authentication, workflow management systems.
Transparency means: cleaning data, maybe workflow m. s., a website… and that is all.

On the one hand, this is very good news. It means that real impact of eGovernment (as explained in previous posts) can be achieved with little investment.
On the other, this is a big limitation. “Putting services online” was a driver of overall IT investment in the public sector.
An e-government manager could invest in other fundamental areas, such as back office transformation, infrastructure, skills, interoperability, with the “excuse” of putting services online.
This is not the case for transparency. It is less able to DRIVE investment in other e-government areas. So it is a less effective driver of e-government investment.

However, transparency promotes meritocracy and accountability, and it exposes government inefficiencies, so it could be a better driver of overall government INNOVATION and REFORM, rather than IT INVESTMENT only.

I hope this is not too confusing. I didn’t expect to come to that when I started this post. I was planning to have a cynical perspective, but this looks very promising!

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why transparency is bad news for eGov practitioners

3 thoughts on “why transparency is bad news for eGov practitioners

  1. Very good post, David. my two cents: I think both your cynical and your optimistic views are well worth keeping in mind. However: of course transparency should be intended as a goal for Gov’t as a whole. I cannot think of a reason why IT should be THE locus of a general shift towards a greater transparency in government.

  2. Jon Lee says:

    Couldn’t it be possible to have both the investment in fundamental areas and put data online? To me, and maybe I’m just naive, but investing in internal transformation, moving to a SOA, adopting enterprise-wide solutions, middleware, web services… could all be done with lofty goals of transparency and data sharing as a by-product? I don’t necessarily see them as diametrically opposed. But I haven’t been in egov that long so please elaborate if you have the opportunity. Thanks.

  3. Jon, thanks for this. Yes of course government HAVE to invest in both. But in the context previous to the Obama administration, I argue that too much has been invested and wasted in internal transformation and front-office service provision without actual benefits. In this context, investing on transparency and open data can bring significant benefits. But as always, there is the risk of hype.

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