We are living in a technical revolution. The Internet allows almost instant sharing of information, computing power permits complex calculations, and visualisations and tools to allow better analysis and comprehension of large datasets. Technology facilitates two-directional information flow, not only from governments but also to governments, allowing them to collect meaningful and structured feedback on fiscal policies. Instead of commissioning external consultancy firms to estimate citizens’ opinions and needs, governments could use the direct input from citizens through the technological and communication tools.
Over recent years, the world has become increasingly “hyperconnected”, driven by the rise of big data, mobile technology and social media. Access to the Internet has transformed the relationships between individuals, consumers and enterprises, civil society, citizens and the state, enabling accessible and immediate services and direct citizen participation. The possibility to be interconnected and to communicate instantly has created opportunities for informing citizens and including them in the decision-making processes of governments. Moreover, the price of technology is dropping, sparking extensive access to mobile technology, even in developing countries, which brings exciting opportunities for outreach, education and feedback.
Well-established, low-cost technologies such as the radio, SMS and print hold strong, and continue to be a stronghold for outreach and communication of messages. The open data movement, particularly opening up government information through data-portals, would most likely not have been financially feasible even a few decades ago.
These developments hold promising new possibilities for fiscal transparency and accountability, more information, better information, new possibilities for reaching out to people who would not normally interact with government, new possibilities to collect feedback and new possibilities to present information for analysis. In this report we examine two main areas: technology for transparency and technology for accountability around public finance. We will look in particular at who builds these tools, who uses them, and who benefits from them.
With initiatives such as the Open Data Strategy for Europe soon due to come into force, and similar emphasis on opening up government data in other parts of the world, it is prudent for governments to start to look into new ways to open up their data, to save time, money and effort in opening up a backlog of data and to get necessary workflows in place.