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PEW's Research: Transparency makes citizen happier, more engaged

Friday, March 4, 2011

PEW has just released its latest survey on transparency of governance in local communities. The result: if the government shares information well, they also feel good about their civic institutions. Following is the summary of PEW's findings (see p.2):

  • Those who think local government does well in sharing information are also more likely to be satisfied with other parts of civic life such as the overall quality of their community and the performance of government and other institutions, as well as the ability of the entire information environment in their community to give them the information that matters.
  • Broadband users are sometimes less satisfied than others with community life. That raises the possibility that upgrades in a local information system might produce more critical, activist citizens.
  • Social media like Facebook and Twitter are emerging as key parts of the civic landscape and mobile connectivity is beginning to affect people’s interactions with civic life. Some 32% of the internet users across the three communities get local news from social networking site; 19% from blogs; 7% from Twitter. And 32% post updates and local news on their social networking sites.
The relationship between transparency system and 'trust' is unsurprising. When information is concealed, people will suspect that those holding the information is hiding something. On the contrary, when information is disclosed, people tend to perceive that everything runs well.

Hence, transparency system can also be used to exploit the masses. This is not an argument for opacity, but only to note that 'disclosure' is not always equal to 'transparency'. 

Read PEW's full report here.