Chart of the week #23: Popular support for open government?

Do people in Tanzania, and elsewhere, support the idea of open government? It’s not a question that is asked very often, but a new dataset collected by the World Bank and others seeks to rectify this.

They asked people in 62 countries – including six in Africa – a short set of questions. Here’s some of the data for Africa – choose a question from the list on the right:

The data was collect through an internet survey, which means the data is dominated by responses from wealthier folks in urban areas. But with that caveat in mind, and focusing on Tanzania in particular, what can we see?

Well, a majority said they thought the government was already open (51%) or somewhat open (29%), but nevertheless, a solid three quarters of respondents expressed support for open government. This doesn’t vary much with the different questions asked:

  • 77% would like government to be more open
  • 76% would trust government more if it were more open
  • 75% would like more information about government
  • 78% said citizens should have a say in government spending and contracting
  • 75% said they thought government would be more effective if it was more open

One thought on “Chart of the week #23: Popular support for open government?

  1. Yulli

    I agree with your caveat that “The data was collect through an internet survey, which means the data is dominated by responses from wealthier folks in urban areas.” I have two disturbing questions. The first nagging question is whether “open government” is at the level of being qualified as “popular” especially in Tanzania. Taking the lesson form the OGP awareness level in Tanzania, we can infer than open government is not popular in Tanzania. The Tanzania IRM report and government self-assessment report for Tanzania’s first OGP Action Plan 2012/2014 clearly states that the plan was superficially implemented partly because of low awareness or newness of open government concept in Tanzania. From this observation, how can open government get such popular support in Tanzania? What kind of respondents participated in this study and how representative are they to the general population?

    Another interesting question is about the meaning of “open government” concept. I think the statistics above is driven by what people perceive as open government. I think if respondents think in terms of a more demanding definition of open government, the statistics above will fall drastically. Let me share my perspective on my understanding of open government below.

    The term open government was first used in the 1950s during the debate that led to the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act in the United States. During that time the term referred to politically sensitive disclosures of government information. Recently, the meaning of open government has shifted to refer to government use of internet to share information on the website regardless of the quality and purpose of published data. Therefore, government use of internet to share information has been erroneously referred to as open government. Thus, open government data has come to mean data that make governments more transparent and accountable. However, not all government open data promotes accountability and transparency. Lack of clarity of the meaning of open government, therefore, makes it difficult for policymakers to make clear open government agenda. The same applies for researchers as well.

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