E-governance, open end e-government are all supposed to enhance the communication between citizens and government.
It is usually presented like this:
A lot of people communicating with government.
But, from the perspective of information science, this picture can be misleading.
Let's look at the characteristics of these entities:
Government and other institutions:
- have rights
- have no rights by itself
- exist only in relation with people
So, in information analysis, government, like any other institution, is not a separate subject, but simply function of relations between people.
These intra-people relations constitute what we call government. They are in the focus of interest of e-democracy initiatives.
These "government" relations are typically:
- Related with conducting collective affairs
It is obvious that these relations are very powerful.
- Influenced by few
- Affect many
- Made in the name and on behalf of all
- Funded by the whole community
They give enormous leverage for the people that conduct or influence them. That's why these relations must be precisely regulated and constantly supervised.
Simply put - public affairs should be public.
How to do it?
Declaration that people have right to know what government does is nice, but it will not produce any results by itself.
To be really publically exposed, these relations must be recorded, i.e. all the acts pertaining to these relations must be recorded and/or tracked.
Without tracking "government" relations, it is impossible to control this powerful leverage.
The misuse of this leverage is also called corruption.
Every activity pertaining to "government" relations that is not tracked/recorded allows corruption.
Untracked activity equals corruption
One may wonder if tracking every activity related to government is too much of a job.
But this principle is already accepted and enforced – it is just that it is imposed on private persons, not on government officials. Every personal activity that is of government's interest – like purchases, money management, engaging in private or personal relations, even private communication – is being tracked, recorded and made accessible to relevant government officials.
As already said, the citizens' 'right to know' what public government is doing is understood as one of the basic civil rights. International organizations, such as Transparency International exists, with the sole purpose to promote this right all around the world.
On the other hand, there is no government's "right to know", but citizen's obligation to publish and present personal data. On any public place, public servant as a policeman can demand from a person a document containing personal data to be presented, and failure to do so may lead to immediate legal punishment.
This information/communication relation is logically seen not as a government's information right, but as a citizen's obligation, and that is what it really is.
Only that what is public can be legal
To really have the full information about some process and even to control it, the abstract "right to know" is not enough. The process itself, or some intermediate layer, must ensure that all relevant data is always available, so that it can be easily accessed when needed.
So, for the people to really know what the government is doing, the government's administration must be obligated to publish all the information that it produces. All the information is important - it is all produced in the name of all the citizens, using their (ours, tax payer's) money.
Hence, publishing the information must be requirement for making that information official and legal.
Only the public government that publishes all its activity as a part of its standard administrative procedures can be accepted as really "public".