A current trend by politicians and bureaucrats to embrace electronic ‘Open Government’ initiatives may not empower citizens to demand the specific information they want, says FIPA’s new Executive Director, Vincent Gogolek. Rather, it may divert government from making long-overdue improvements to Canada’s Access to Information system.
Gogolek appeared before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics yesterday to encourage moves toward web-based Open Government, but not at the expense of the citizens’ right to obtain records on demand.
He warned that the web-based Open Government models being discussed may provide ‘faux transparency’ — access to information the government wishes the public to have, not to information that can make government truly open and accountable.
Gogolek reminded the Committee that Canada’s Access to Information Act and system has very serious and well-documented problems. “Initiatives in the field of ‘open data’ cannot take the place of action to repair our seriously crippled Access to Information system”, he said.
“Without the ability to pull information from the government vaults, be they paper or electronic, an open data system that allows the government to push the information it deems suitable for public consumption will be a Trojan horse for those who prefer that information stay within the control of the bureaucracy.”