IDP2014 (IV). e-Government (I)

Notes from the 10th Internet, Law and Politics Congress: A decade of transformations, organized by the Open University of Catalonia, School of Law and Political Science, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 3-4 July 2014. More notes on this event: idp2014.

Chairs: Agustí Cerrillo Martínez, Chair professor of Administrative Law, School of Law and Political Science (UOC)

eGovernment as an instrument for the protection of the environment. Electronic services of environmental information (2003-2013)
Francisco Javier Sanz Larruga. Catedrático de Derecho Administrativo de la Universidad de A Coruña

GPS, LBS, SIGs, WMS, aerial photography systems… there are now plenty of ways to geolocalize information.

And we want all this information to be public so that citizens can use it for environmental purposes. Where’s the limit? How does it relate with privacy and other rights? In Spain, the Law 14/2010 deals with these issues, plus other laws that deal, for instance, with interoperability of databases.

This public information is increasingly useful for territory planning, for trials as evidence, etc.

Drones now are on a legal void, but can be very helpful in providing geographical information (especially through photography) and should thus be regulated.

On the administrative simplification and the perversion of electronic requests that neutralize the reduction of administrative burdens
Mª Dolores Rego Blanco. Profesora Titular de Derecho Administrativo. Universidad Pablo de Olavide.

How can we reduce non-justified, unnecessary or excessive requests to the government sent electronically?

First of all, what is an administrative burden? The issue is, that despite the fact that electronic requests have much lower costs than face-to-face (or traditional mail) requests, we may end up having so much electronic requests that the total cost could be higher than by traditional means.

We have to be careful, though, that when trying to add some requisites to avoid overwhelming requests, we do not harm the rights of the petitioners.

Digital administration and transparency in the Italian legal system
Enrico Carloni. Associate professor of administrative law at the University of the Studies of Perugia

Where is the balance between government transparency and the privacy, personal data protection, etc. of MPs and other elected representatives?

Digitization of most G2B relationships is bringing more traceability and thus transparency. But it is also putting some struggle to SMEs which are having difficult times to catch up with the evolution of technology, be it because of lack of infrastructure be it because of lack of skills.

There is a conflict between open data — gathering all the information and putting it together — and privacy — avoiding the collection of personal data in order to identify someone.

10th Internet, Law and Politics Conference (2014)

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)