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Dangers of Government Transparency


March 1, 2011

Social Media Domino Effect?

Doug Hadden, VP Products

A prominent public financial management expert recently reflected on the unrest in the middle east as indicative of the danger of government transparency. Governments should be wary of social networks. Social media could disrupt government. Everywhere.

Yes, government transparency is dangerous. More specifically, the lack of government transparency is dangerous.

No question that social media turns non-transparent leaders into buffoons. Transparent governments, on the other hand, can get enter into dialog rather than ranting monologues.

Citizens suspect that non-transparent governments are hiding something. Daniel Kaufmann has pointed out the difference between the condition on the ground in Libya compared to the perception of the international community.  And, how the lack of relevant data plays into perceptions of risk. Social media exposes real conditions on the ground.

Transparency Sea Change?

FreeBalance is active in developing countries. Our government resource planning software helps improve governance and reduce corruption. The software is used for financial and budget transparency. And, our customers and prospective customers seem to have an increasing appetite for more transparency. Why are government leaders in developing countries embracing transparency?

  • Improved development results: citizens analyzing government expenditures enhance government audit capabilities to improve government efficiency and effectiveness. And, identify graft.
  • Improved social cohesion: citizens and civil society organization are able to follow funding for disadvantaged populations to reduce poverty and improve efficacy.
  • Increased investment: transparent governments attract more donor funding and private sector investment. And, it attracts the highly skilled to return to their home country.
  • Increased stability: citizen recognize the achievements of current governments. Data centres the political debate and moves it away from outrageous claims.

This is why so many developing nation governments are leaping ahead in transparency. Transparency has become political. Politicians prosper through transparency and by advocating open government. “Nothing to hide” has become political currency around the world.

From Transparency to Social Media Transparency

As mentioned in a previous posting, there are important social media lessons to learn from protests in the Middle East, s the Tea Party use of Twitter and the use of social media by the Obama campaign. Government transparency is migrating to a “2.0” world:

  1. Governments need to move in-network to use social media to improve policy formulation and policy execution. This will improve social cohesion and what we once called “efficacy”.
  2. There is no stopping what Tapscott and Williams calls the “rise of the citizen regulator.” It is time for governments to recognize the participatory benefits of this trend to help improve performance and outcomes.
  3. Traditional media does not have the impact it once did. Traditional media organizations are hierarchical in nature and suffer from the same inefficiencies as other “command-and-control” organizations. Therefore, transparency, even to the extent of “dis-intermediating” traditional organizations is becoming a competitive differentiator for governments.
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Doug Hadden

Doug Hadden

Executive Vice President, Innovation at FreeBalance
Doug is responsible for identifying new global markets, new technologies and trends, and new and enhanced internal processes. Doug leads a cross-functional international team that is responsible for developing product prototypes and innovative go-to-market strategies.

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