When you invest in something, you want to know how well your investment is paying off – your ROI. Well, citizens “invest” in government (and their community), so they want easy access to useful information about it. They want to see a return on their investment.
But open government is not just beneficial for citizens; there is a Return on Investment (ROI) for governments as well…
The ROI for Government
Saves time (and $)
When government data is easily accessible, citizens can easily find what they are looking for and download the information themselves. This significantly reduces the amount of government time spent on fulfilling Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. If the government voluntarily puts data on its website (proactive disclosure) and makes it easy to use, citizens/reporters can find the information on their own, without needing to fill out a FOIA request. Clerks (and others) who work on fulfilling FOIA requests become enabled to spend their time working on other tasks.
Enabled Participation = Free consulting
Blind spots: everyone has them, including government. Citizens who have data at their disposal can be of greater help by helping to expose these blind spots to the government by means of providing insight and ideas.
If a government provides relevant information that is easily accessible to the public, citizens are then more likely to provide relevant feedback on their wants. Citizens can also take a look at what it going on and provide relevant feedback to the government that could potentially save the government money (see “Case Study: How Open data saved Canada $3.2 Billion” by @daeaves). Armed with this feedback from their citizens, government officials can then make more informed decisions about issues that impact their constituents.
Transparency encourages trust in government. And when citizens trust their government, they’re more likely to support their policies and their decisions. Which would you chose: To walk down a city street in pitch black or in broad daylight? It’s the same with government. Transparency (like sunlight) helps to build trust by removing suspicion.
The Sunlight Foundation puts it well when they say that “today, our newly networked citizenry has rising expectations of greatly expanded access to governmental information, so that it may play a fuller role in understanding, evaluating and participating in the workings of its government.” Remember Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address? The government is “…for the people”.
More openness means that both the people and the government win.
What other ways do transparency and collaboration help government become more effective? Let us know in the comments below!
A similar version of this was originally posted at the company that I work for’s product blog (Disclosure: the product deals w/ transparency, gov’t, & technology) *Note, Char Domin helped in editing a previous version of this post.