Can open government reduce political corruption?

“Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts… perhaps the fear of a loss of power.” – John Steinbeck

I recently came across a post stating that the House and Senate Ethics Committees Protecting the Most Corrupt Members of Congress. While no one is surprised to read about corruption in government my question is how can we use government 2.0 technologies to add more transparency to government, making the fear of losing power greater than the gains made possible by corrupt behavior.

  • Congressional Monitoring Applications. If you are curious to see what your lawmakers in Congress are doing check out the Congress Application created by Sunlight Labs. I have it installed on my Android mobile and can monitor how each person is voting, new laws as they happen, and much more.
  • Pork Finder. Many time complex pieces of legislation contain unrelated items in order to get others to vote for the bill. If you’re interested in finding these anomalies without spending hours reading these bills check out the IBM Many Bills application created by IBM Research.

What about local level government? This is where the push for publishing data in open formats becomes critical. The upfront cost to publish open data may, in some cases, be high. However, cost reduction is generally seen as fewer people need to visit town/city halls to request documents.

How does it reduce potential corruption? Take a look at Washington, DC where the local budgets,and up to date spending information, is published for everyone to see. If your expenses are showing up on a public facing web site are you more likely, or less likely, to make responsible choices?

We have a long way to go and corruption will never be eliminated. However, we live in a world where corruption can more easily be made visible.


Originally posted at Government in Action

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