Session: Technology for Transparency

Does information plus participation lead to government accountability?

Transparency as a cure for the ills of modern democracy has become such a highly prized concept that the word was banned from use at Michigan’s Lake Superior State University due to “mis-use, over-use, and general uselessness.” Such lexical protests haven’t stopped hundreds of websites from popping up all over the world, grounded in the belief that making government information more accessible to ordinary citizens through sexy web 2.0 interfaces will lead to greater accountability of elected officials and improved governance. But is this the reality? Do we have any concrete proof that technology projects which aim to promote transparency and civic engagement have an actual political and social impact? By looking at case studies of some of the most innovative technology for transparency projects from Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa we will evaluate their effectiveness, aggregate their best ideas, and make suggestions for future improvements.