Wednesday, February 21, 2007

No more crumbs...

After yesterday's post/poll on transparency, I received several emails along with a couple of comments on the blog. One was a link to this Editorial from last Wednesday's Essex Free Press:
Open and transparent
Across Ontario there is a fatigue with governments at all levels. People, who are interested in being involved in the decisions that shape their communities, get frustrated when they are stonewalled by the very organizations created to work on their behalf. Ontario needs strong, enforceable laws that make it not only easy, but in many cases possible, for citizens to participate in the process. The Transparency in Public Matters Act goes a long way towards making that a reality. But without the support of concerned and involved citizens, the Private Member’s Bill may die.

I've posted this once before, but thought it worthwhile to post again for any doubters out there who truly believe that people aren't interested in their governments, regardless of level (H/T to See McIntyre Info for the link) :

Restoring Citizen Trust – The Heart of Accountability – establishing a political culture that reconnects with politicians and the public.(pdf)

Existing accountability mechanisms in Canada are out of date. For one thing, they assume that public involvement is limited to election times. But numerous studies show that citizens are “no longer content to go to the polls every four years or so and then give government a free hand” (Savoie, page 9). Part of having more trust is having more say.

Improved accountability won’t happen without improved transparency. It goes well beyond simply posting more information on government Web sites and publishing more reports. Transparency means the public has easily accessible, understandable and meaningful information that makes clear what is being achieved for society with public funds and where the gaps are. It also involves governments giving the public a role in determining what constitutes meaningful information and facilitating its use of that information to influence the policy process.
One method of facilitating the above that has been adopted by both National and Provincial levels of government, but hasn't really filtered down to the Municipal level as yet is RSS - Really Simple Syndication (or Rich Site Syndication). Pull versus push technology. A user can decide which feeds to subscribe to and how often those feeds are checked. No need for massive email databases or lists, simply post the item on your RSS-enabled website and let the people pull what they wish. RSS also allows for

A good example of that is my previous post regarding the appointment of Anthony Toldo Sr. as a Member of the Order of Canada. My RSS client pulled the Press Release from the Government of Canada News Feed at 1:30 pm yesterday afternoon. I read it at around 6:00 pm and blogged about it, when I had a chance, at 8:30pm. Eighteen people visited that particular blog between the time I posted it and midnight last night. From the Governor General, to me, to other people. Not bad.

BTW, if you get a chance, visit the Governor General's blog or check out her Citizen's Voices Forum.

As one final comment for this post, a City report that took almost 15 months to produce in the format requested is not exactly a shining example to be chest thumping about.