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Modern transparency means understanding the difference between open government and open data

August 15, 2013

Transparency and open government in the 21st century is a critical topic not just for the federal administration but state, county and town councils as well. Understanding how to optimize operations using technology, boost community and engagement and provide the people with the data they want in a convenient, cost effective and "open" way are all key, but many local offices get caught up in the how and forget the fundamentals behind being truly open as a government body.

According to The Wall Street Journal there is a key difference between open government and open data that councils need to learn and understand in order to truly advance transparency efforts. Simply "throwing out" tons of data isn't the same as advocating open government standards, state, county and town administrations have to provide the public with an understanding of how to access and use that data as efficiently as possible.

The Internet provides a key tool for this purpose.

"It is also so much easier to access any type of online platform than it was even five years ago," Tanja Aitamurto, a researcher at Stanford University, told the Journal. "The Internet is now available to so many more people and it means your voice can be heard outside of the urban centers where the politicians work."

By implementing a strong online portal to promote open data, government officials are already taking a positive step toward true transparency, but further efforts are still required.

The organization of data plays a key role in its "openness." If a government office simply lumps all of its data into a single database, it will be confusing and convoluted not only for the public, but the council as well. Implementing high-quality solutions to manage and optimize data storage will be key in promoting true transparency.

"One of the reasons you have a government is because in the provision of certain public processes you assume there is a greater wisdom in the official mind than exists anywhere else," Douglas Carswell, a Conservative Party member of the U.K. Parliament told the news source. "We begin to realize that in this world of collective wisdom the official mind isn't as clever as we thought it was."

Carswell points out that the public has high expectations of their leaders, and even a small town council has to embrace and embody those expectations. Improving the technology used, such as investing in IQM2's high quality meeting management software, will boost the capabilities of local councils and enhance public opinion, meeting two goals at once.