“Transparency.” The buzz word around the ARRA. Since the administration and the public have latched on to this word when it comes to the new open government philosophy, we have learned that there can be many interpretations of the word.
To communications professionals, it means one thing; to IT folks, something quite different; and, to the public, something all together different. However, to most people, transparency has to do with disclosure. Providing information about an issue, event, project, policy, program etc. and then providing a way for people to find and view that information.
Typically, that would suffice. However, when the term is applied in our system of government that particular definition does not go far enough to meet the public’s (expected) definition of transparency. In a democracy, transparency should be defined as disclosure and discussion.
After all, these issues, projects, and programs all have to do with the public’s interest, and using the public’s money. Disclosure, as the definition of transparent provides citizens with a window in which to view a process. By adding the ability to have discussion around that process provides citizens with a seat at the table in which to collaborate about the content that is being presented to them and what it means.
In case anyone is interested, last March, I posted in my blog “A suggestion for what ‘Transparency’ looks like.” I focused on the ARRA and the challenge to include citizens in not only the reporting of the data but how they can also be part of the dialog on how their money is being spent and what impact it is having on their lives, their communities and on their states.
Andrew, this is a good question.