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.