| Developing ideas: Issue 5 |
Virtual transparency - or electronic openness on the Internet - is a hot new trend among organizations. What's great about it is the accessibility to (normally closed) decision-making processes that it provides, whether for governments, businesses or civil society. Accessibility brings accountability, because flagrantly unsustainable decisions become harder to pull off when others are watching. Perhaps the surprise in all of this is how well some governments are taking to this latest vehicle of democracy. So often maligned as slow and unresponsive, many governments are nonetheless creating public e-mail pathways to parliamentarians, 'lobbying-loops' or public feedback channels to government departments, and even on-line 'cyber-discussions' for drafting future policy. On a global level, a campaign against land mines involving over 30 countries is showing the power of international pressure mobilized by e-mail on the Internet. When politicians in Germany and Canada made noises about possible restrictions on land mines, local activists let their worldwide partners know immediately. The result was instant and resounding: faxes flooded in to cheer the politicians on. Non-governmental organizations are rising to the challenge of the new technology and using it to bolster their role as watch-dogs of the public interest. Though the medium is not perfect (much of Africa is excluded for instance, because of poor phone lines and computer access), few would disagree that virtual transparency is one way of working toward the goal of common security . [ Internet - aided accountabiIity ]
Information famine n. lack of access to electronic and other forms of knowledge, particularly acute in Sub-Saharan African.
Internet accountability n. on-line electronic reporting that increases the transparency of decision-making.
Hamelink, Cees J. World Communication: Disempowerment and Self-empowerment. London: Zed Books, 1995. 168p.
NOT HOT - Open for Business! Closed to Scrutiny!
Some organizations are opening up to 'virtual transparency' and letting people peek in on once-secret decision-making. (Certain companies for example put their annual reports on-line for all the world to see.) But many organizations are more circumspect about allowing public scrutiny of key decisions even when sustainability is at stake. Should invitations for public feedback become the norm before crucial decisions get made? As new environmental management systems like ISO 14000 evolve, it remains to be seen whether government departments, nongovernmental organizations, companies and other agencies will use the Net to increase their accountability to the public.
Physicians for Global Survival - Campaign Against Land Mines
Earth Negotiations Bulletin & Linkanes
http://www. iisd.ca/ linkages