The failure of government transparency


It was with great frustration that I read the Information Commissioner’s report  on the performance of the Canadian government in responding to citizen’s Access to Information Requests. (OIC Report – Out of Time)

Given that Harper campaigned on the concept of open government and placed into law the Federal Accountability Act back in 2006, specifically to address the issues of government transparency, it is amazing to see the lack of visible change that has resulted from that forward looking and necessary action.

Call it a failure to execute.

It is easy to make promises but it takes real leadership to put the plans in motion and see them through the the end, or even the middle. It is easy to say “here is a plan” but if you do not empower people to execute the plan, if you do not give them the resources, if you do not check in and continually re-iterate your desires, if you do not provide a vision of the positive benefits of a successful outcome and  then you are not really leading, you are simply blustering.

Here are some reactions to the report from the Information Commissioner…

Press Release

Interim Information Commissioner renews call for action to stem delays in the federal access to information system

Link Here

Globe and Mail Coverage

Canadians’ access to information at a crisis point

Link Here

Ottawa Citizen Coverage

Harper government slammed for its record on access to information

Link Here


Under funded, under staffed and under resourced the over worked access to information groups are doing an amazing job of keeping up their end of the bargain. But while technology is being deployed inside the organization, and in this regard Canada is far ahead of the States, when it comes to citizen facing technology, citizen engagement and proactive access to government data and information the Canadian government is woefully inadequate.

To quote the Information Commissioner…

“Ever evolving information and communications technologies have increased expectations for a quick dissemination of information enabling content creation and innovation. The government should be leading this new development or, at the very least, keeping up with the pace.”

Well they aren’t, looking at the Canadian governments ProActive Disclosure page (link here) reveals a poorly formatted page with 5 hyperlinks to poorly organized tables of information…

And this is after 5 years of the Harper government continual reassurance of how open they are and how they want Canadians to have access to all of the information.

Compare this to the US where, at the beginning of last year, President Obama released his Presidential Directive on Open Government and Transparency (link here) and in a short period of time hundreds of initiatives and multiple government web sites have sprung up with a huge amount of available data, easily downloaded and processed by the average citizen.

The directive states that within 120 days of concept proposal the concept must be implemented.

The Data.gov web site is amazing, 1284 data sets and counting. Proactively disclosed data (not data that someone asked for but data that someone in government thought would be useful to the citizens of that country) , nicely searchable, indexed, updated daily. This is not rocket science either, this is an easy to create web site and back-end system.

The Canadian government could have a similar system up an running in a couple of months if they wanted.

Data.Gov

Notice the 1284 data sets…the Canadian page has 5.


IT.USASpending.Gov

Look at this site…full disclosure of all government IT spending, they know where their tax dollars are spent!

Do You?

Recovery.Gov

Tracking stimulus money…

As a technology guy this is incredibly frustrating.

All of this is doable, easily doable…

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