Information needs political advocates to make it free…

We hear a lot about the great value of FOI’s. And there have been some great instances it has brought a lot of telling detail to light. But most of the time you really need to know exactly what you are looking for, often right down to the time of day the subject line, etc.

More often however just heavy negotiation required to unlock the complex mechanism endows the discovered information with a heightened meaning it may not deserve in the wider run of things.

And more broadly the way even publicly available information is stacked means that those bigger data sets from which we might derive real public knowledge and value means the wider benefits to both government and citizen remain a no go area.

Over at the recently revived Slugger Consults blog, I’ve picked up on Henry Farrell’s view that Open Data needs political advocates who see some value in opening up a wider discourse without falling foul of a lobby system that would prefer to keep everything locked down…

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  • “Information needs political advocates to make it free…”

    .. and a sturdy ‘broad church’ media to disseminate it as well as more independent guardians to protect it.

    When it comes to greater involvement by the wider public in reform it would IMO be better to drop jargon such as ‘what Cosma calls processes of collective cognition could help foster a general democratic experimentalism.’

  • Seems to be a problem with the Placenames post. Goes to arhive and not available. Delete this. Thought it quickest way to highlight an issue.

  • Mister_Joe

    Too true, Mick. It often seems to need a whistleblower, at some personal risk, to point to what questions should be asked. Could we benefit from local “wikileak” sites?

  • thedissenter, it did that for me too before I signed in.

  • That did it, but had to sign in on the post, otherwise it kicked me out of being signed-in.

  • Mister_Joe, I think there are two different governance issues here: one is about feeding information into the process and the other is about getting it out; hopefully an improvement in each will lead to much better governance.

    Folks are often invited to comment on the proposed solution to a problem whereas their expertise might be a lot more useful in its analysis and in the in-between bits. Our politicians and bureaucrats often lack the expertise necessary to produce good results; I experience this on a small scale on a regular basis up on the North Coast.

    Lack of competence, cronyism and yielding to pressure from vested interests have produced what currently afflicts governance in NI.

  • aquifer

    Time limited civil service employment contracts could help make sense of it all. The information systems would have to be open enough for newcomers to work, and departing employees could tell outsiders what is really going on.

    You really have to know what is there before asking for it, and only humans can tell you that.

    Are spare and incompetent civil servants still on the payroll really just being paid to keep quiet?