Why we should care about transparency

There are a few different reasons why we should value greater transparency. The first is the way that transparency potentially changes the way government operates. The second is that transparency potentially changes the relationship between people and government officials. And a third reason is that transparency enables groups, that otherwise would not be able to participate, to participate in governance.

There’s strong research that shows the relationship between greater media freedom and development and reduced corruption levels. Broadly we can say that the freer the information environment – whether that’s through a strong journalistic institution or through voluntary disclosure – the less corruption there is.

Transparency, more information and better flows of that information, are also critical to governments that have problems knowing what’s actually happening in their programs, especially in decentralised settings. It’s particularly true when it comes to things that are hard to know or monitor – like health or education or road building in remote areas. So information flow in this way changes the ability for the government to manage its own programs.

The citizen-led movement for Right to Information laws in India is a very good example of a movement that has helped citizens define what they expect of their government. One of the things they expect of their government is information – and not just what the government defines as information but an expectation that any information about public practices should be public. This has really profoundly changed the power of officials because their actions are in the public realm and any information about those actions is in the public realm.

It’s important to point out that while we talk about the importance and flourishing of transparency in different contexts, there are an increasing number of countries in East Asia and around the world where the information space is being impinged upon by laws that assert security or privacy concerns. We’re seeing a whole range of clampdowns on information, which have significant impact on the availability of information.

Sourced from: The World Bank