Policy and technology: a "longue durée" view

Random thoughts on policy for technology and on technology for policy


April 2008

Transparency vs privacy: Italian tax agency publishes citizens’ tax declarations online

This is huge. Today the Italian Tax Agency published the tax declaration of all Italian citizens online.
Then it was withdrawn because of the protests for privacy reasons.
Apparently the Data Protection Officer authorizes this in 2001 and 2003.
Here is the interview with the then Data Protection Officer, and privacy guru, Stefano Rodota’ (in Italian).
What is really interesting is that the argument he puts in favour of this is that it allows a “widespread control” (controllo diffuso). This is the crowdsourcing of the Tax Inspections!
If this is allowed for tax declaration, then almost every data can become public with this argument.
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UPDATE: even more interesting – the 2 biggest newspapers made an online poll, with each already 20K votes,  and in both cases the majority of votes is in favour

Some more evidence that yes, peertopatent seems to have an impact

For all of us waiting for some real evidence that web2 is more than a hype, here is some more solid evidence from peer to patent.

“BNA published an article today in which it noted the early positive results seen in conjunction with Peer-to-Patent.”
Peer to Patent: Peer-to-Patent in BNA

Visualization: why transparency matters

I arguesd in a previous post that “online services” as a flagship goal was able to catalyze IT investment, while transparency requires less IT investment but could leverage real change in government (and require further IT investment as well).
Here is how I would visualize it:

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A paper to sum up the discussion on this blog

I prepared a paper which sums up all the issues discussed so far in this blog.
It contains a first proposal for benchmarking eGov transparency. It is aimed at both eGov and web2.0 practictioners.
I just put it on GoogleDocs, you can find it here.
Look forward to your feedback.

open data principles as law proposal

Very relevant initiative by the Sunlight Foundation.
Of course, legal enforcement is not the only way to obtain transparency.
There are also “soft” measures, such as the open method of coordination and benchmarking 🙂

Transparency and e-government: what is new?

This blog argues that transparency could be the driver of e-government, in the same way as putting services online have been driving e-government since the dotcom era.

But transparency has a long and important tradition. Why would it be important NOW? What is NEW that makes it so much more important than it was before?

I have 2 answers, very much correlated.

a) the wide AVAILABILITY OF WEB TOOLS to elaborate on public data, makes the impact of transparency much bigger. Just think of publishing platform such as blogs, of mash-ups such as GoogleEarth, of visualization tools such as ManyEyes, plus all the free and open source software used in web2.0 projects.

b) the concept of MANY-TO-MANY changes the power relationship. Transparency was before an issue of the individual citizens versus the government, and the interpretation and impact of the information obtained was limited by this. Now, the first thing a citizen which obtains interesting information out of a Freedom of Information request, is to post it on the web – see for example what happened in Italy with the information on the cost of the Tourism portal: the refusal by government to disclose the information became a boomerang once published on the IT blogs, and the bureaucratic answer became a monument to inward-looking government.

Furthermore, as mySociety shows, even the very FOI request can be managed collectively, and become a public data worth publishing in order to monitor government response.

So yes, there is something new under the sun.

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