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Government transparency takes more than a federal mandate

January 24, 2013

During his first term as president, Obama indicated the need for more transparency on all levels of the government and began to make changes to enforce this need. However, those changes may take some time to reach small town, county and city governments. In order to begin focusing on a more open and transparent government now, these smaller offices need to invest in high-quality tools to make changes on their own.

According to Dennis O'Reilly of O'Reilly Media, the internet has played one of the largest roles in helping government offices become more transparent. With websites and wide-spread access to the internet, citizens are able to become more engaged in what their town boards, county seat or city leaders are doing, and increase their awareness of meeting and agenda news. With technology revolutionizing the availability and accessibility of records and information, it is up to these offices to ensure that they have the solutions in place to provide access.

"Government is becoming a stronger part of the social ecosystem that binds individuals, communities, and businesses - not by absorbing new responsibilities or building additional layers of bureaucracy, but through its willingness to open up formerly closed processes to broader input and innovation," O'Reilly quoted from Don Tapscott's book Open Government: Collaboration, Transparency, and Participation in Practice. "In other words, government becomes a platform for the creation of public value and social innovation. It provides resources, sets rules, and mediates disputes, but it allows citizens, nonprofits, and the private sector to do most of the heavy lifting."

The most important factors for any smaller government considering investing in the technology to improve transparency are cost and productivity. A process that makes agenda management or record keeping take longer wont be effective, but something that automates processes and allows the board to focus on more important tasks will be. Additionally, no town, county or city government should invest in a solution that will end up costing tax-payers more than current practices, but focus on tools that will eventually reduce expenditures.

By investing in technology like minutes software, any organization can help make its processes more open and increase citizen engagement through accurate and timely updates of information. No town, county or city government can afford to not invest in technology today, and integrating the internet with solutions as the next step is just common sense, making information more accessible to the public.