Enrico Carloni: e-Administration and Transparency: the diffusion of public information on the Internet

Notes from the research seminar e-Administration and Transparency: the diffusion of public information on the Internet, by Enrico Carloni, held at the Open University of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain, on May 27th, 2010.

e-Administration and Transparency: the diffusion of public information on the Internet
Enrico Carloni

Public administration as a glass house, where people can look through it and peek on the inside. In Italy, public transparency is a constitutional value, though it is not referred in this terms but using: impartiality, responsibility, democratic principles, politic responsibility or accountability. All these principles require transparency and that all citizens are knowledgeable of what the government is doing.

But, traditionally, in Italy, the de facto rule was secrecy. It is in 1990 that transparency is added in a reform of the Law that regulated the public administration. The right to transparency is strengthened in 2005 in the Italian Law for Digital Administration. In 2009, the ‘Brunetta’ Law regulates the publication of information on the Internet, including transparency as publicity online, instead of right of access to information, which was what was stated in 1990. Right of access vs. publicity online are quite different rights.

Right of access (law of 1990) required a “motivated” request, disclose direct interest, etc. In the end, this requisites implied an “access without transparency”, and the right of access was more of a monitoring device rather than a principle in itself.

In 2005, the law for Digital Administration (or Codice dell’amministrazione digitale) requires that transparency is guaranteed as a principle in itself, forcing a shift from right of access to publicity.

The new law uses an old device — open data and transparency of public information — that had been set up for efficiency purposes, and adds a new use for that old device: public information for transparency. This will, with time, be applied in the Operazione Trasparenza.

Advantages of the new model

  • Absence of mediation, any capable citizen can individually access all the information (Orsi Battaglini).
  • Increase and ease of availability, abandonment of the request-and-wait-for-a-response approach (Herz, 2009).
  • Possibility of new products, creation of new knowledge, really in line of transparency 2.0.

Risks of the new model

  • It is a system too weak in front of digital divides and knowledge divides in general.
  • Privacy hazards, from the glass house to the glass official.
  • Messy rooms: against maximum transparency, maximum opacity: the area of public information is fully open, but very limited.
  • Information overload
  • Biases of accountability, where transparency is used instrumentally: massive information on non-significant information, propaganda, etc.

Discussion

Blanca Torrubia: What are the limits of public information publicity? Who sets the rules of publicity? Who decides what is to become public information? A: The Law is very clear about that.

Ana Delgado: What happens if the information that is made available is wrong and this damages the citizen’s interests? A: This situation follows the usual legal paths of damages to third parties.

Ignasi Beltran: Is there a system to penalize misbehaviours? A: A way to penalize misbehaviours, by law, is firstly to penalize the responsible of that information. Another one is to assume the responsibilities that come from a lack of information (e.g. a citizen cannot be fined if they did not something that was not properly published). Citizens can also denounce misbehaviours and ask them to be corrected.

Ismael Peña-López: What does publicity exactly mean: open data or information? First hand raw data, or elaborated second hand information? A: Italy is in its transition from open information to open data. Traditionally, it was about opening documents, as the document was both content and container. The logic of the document and the logic of the data went together. And the inertia is still to high, so the logic of date is superseded by the logic of the document. As some new laws are designed with the logic of data, there are some pressures to push ahead the transition from document to data.

David Martínez: Has there been a constitutional evolution about the concept of transparency? Has it been more formally recognized as a right in itself? How do we monitor impartiality in public transparency? A: There has not been a change in the Constitution or the like, but there have been court rulings that have strengthened the new nature of the concept of transparency. But transparency still is not a principle in itself, but an enabler or an instrument to reach other principles (e.g. transparency for accountability).

Mònica Vilasau: How to monitor privacy? And how to cope with the trade-off between privacy and access? A: Access usually prevails on privacy. But the citizen can perform any “treatment” on their data. Some data, nevertheless, are private and cannot be published unless they are anonymised. On the other hand, if some public data are used to harm privacy of third parties, this can be treated as a law infringement, as it is like a non-consented use of private data.

Agustí Cerrillo: Does the CAD allows for an increased efficiency in public administration? What relevant information does get to the citizen? Wouldn’t it be better to keep the right of access, which allows for asking for further information, instead of right of publicity, which just provides public information on specific issues? A: Efficiency of the act, efficiency of the Administration, efficiency of a more transparent administration. The more the knowledge about the procedures of the public sector, the more likely to achieve higher levels of efficiency.

References

Enrico Carloni (2010). La “casa di vetro” e le riforme. Modelli e paradossi della trasparenza amministrativa (PDF file, 214 KB)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2010) “Enrico Carloni: e-Administration and Transparency: the diffusion of public information on the Internet” In ICTlogy, #80, May 2010. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Retrieved month dd, yyyy from http://ictlogy.net/review/?p=3385

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