The difference between Transparency and Open

For the past three weeks I’ve been taking part in something call Local Gov Chat on twitter. It’s a twitter based moderated conversation on the subject of Local Government and various tech and cultural issues.

One of the questions that came up this afternoon was an interesting one:

“What is the difference between openness and transparency?”

In a lot of the discussion around gov2.0 and local government the two terms tend to be used interchangably. However I think that while similar they actually describe two different approaches.

To my mind transparency is what you get when the government tells you what’s going on. This can happen via the release of data, procedural openness, and a policy environment that encourages the delivery of information into the hands of the community. However it’s like looking through a window. You’re on one side consuming the data and information and the government is on the other side delivering it.

Openness is what you get when the government moves out from behind the window and sits down with you and starts talking about what it’s been serving up. A good example of this is a government that releases, say all the data about traffic in a certain region, including black spots, usage of roads and so on, after which they then consult (genuinely) with the community, seeking to involve that community in creating the solutions for the problems that exist.

Of course everyone probably has their own definition, but to me, that’s the one that makes sense.

Originally posted here:

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Ari Herzog

I disagree. Your definitions are backwards.

Forget government. If I tell you something, I am being open and apparent with you. If I go beyond that openness and knock down the barrier between us so we can co-create outcomes, that’s transparency.

Yasmin Fodil

The important thing is not what word you choose, but rather to know that there is something very different between just sharing information, and moving beyond that to have a conversation and co-creating outcomes.

James Purser

Heh I thought someone might disagree.

I’ve built my definition of transparency and Open through my work with the Free and Open Source Software community. When a company puts out an api or documents code, their being transparent, when they engage in discussion with users and developers and bring them into the core building process, they’re being open.