Monday, November 12, 2012

Open government - the good and the bad.

 I wasn't sure whether to put this post in Public Policy or Human Factors because it is a great example of both.  Also great examples of why I love TED.  These two talks are from TED global 2012. 

Ivan Krastev is a Bulgarian who talks about the folly of how democracy is not working.  But his main point is not about Bulgaria, but about open democracy.  My favorite quote is from the President when they decided to put all ministerial meetings online.  Rather than worrying that this would open up their deliberations to the public he thought this was the best way to force all ministers to keep their mouths shut.  You never know when your words can come back to haunt you and this removes all plausible deniability.  You can't say the words were taken out of context.  The same thing that makes democracy better (transparency) also makes it worse.  It is all about how you manage it.

Beth Noveck's talk is much more positive.  She has studied how open government is practiced around the world.  Her main point is that you need more than just transparency.  You also need participation.  Information has to flow in both directions for open government to be useful.  Her examples are really uplifting when you think about the potential of matching a good objective, a good UI, and good crowdsourcing. 

I am almost intentionally not doing these TED talks justice so that you will have to go watch or listen to the originals.  They are both worth the 15 minute investment.

Beth Noveck
Ivan Krastev