“I think we need to remember that a point of view brought under public scrutiny and discussion in an isolated manner may sometimes present a distorted or incomplete picture of what really happened in the process of making the final decisions.”
– Dr. Manmohan Singh, talking in the context of RTI and decision-making
Lately, one of the things that has been bothering me about news reportage in the media is its propensity to react to any and every quote from a politician on issues of corruption, freedom of information, transparency and the likes. Beginning from April this year, newspapers such as the Times of India have latched on to every quote they have felt to be controversial, without even so as much reflecting on the veracity, validity or the thinking that has gone behind the statement.
Continue reading When Openness is Unfreedom (alternatively, when data is unfreedom) – Part I
In the recent national elections, we saw several initiatives that were implemented to provide more information to people about their elected representatives. The purpose of providing this information was to enable people to make more informed choices about who they cast their votes for. Some among these initiatives aim at achieving the larger goals of transparency, accountability and good governance i.e., their goal in providing information about elected representatives is not only to help people to vote more responsibly; it is also expected that citizens will use this information to monitor the performance of their elected representatives and hold them accountable after they have been voted in. Consequently, there is an attempt to collate information beyond that which is made available through candidate affidavits, i.e., about the state of development in parliamentary constituencies, election manifestoes and promises, news about elected representatives and constituencies, etc. These initiatives fulfill one aspect of the larger discourse about transparency i.e., providing access to information about “the state”. It is presumed that providing such information will encourage people to engage with the state and participate in monitoring its activities. My aim in this post is to dissect this logic somewhat further and to highlight some of the political dynamics which complicate any simple understandings of transparency and information access. I will conclude this post by making some tentative remarks on the possible ways in which information access can be configured in order to serve certain local needs. Continue reading Information Access and Transparency