Book Review: Open Government

June 28, 2010
Ganadeva Bandyopadhyay

Open Government, the book under review is a collection of articles from professionals and notable stakeholders in governance, primarily from US perspective. With thirty-four chapters, this is a fairly fat book filled with case studies and opinions of various participants.

Some of the measures of government reform in this context include the recently recognized roles of CTO and CIO as part of the government similar to major business and corporations.

One of the important points made in one of the chapters "Government as a Platform" is that any functional democracy needs to have all inclusive opinions from maximum stakeholders possible. The advantage of diverse public discourse is that wrong opinions tend to cancel each other, leaving the the best ones to be considered for implementation. In present times, with lot of the population being internet-savvy, it is definitely a step forward to include online tools and forums for determining the public opinion.

There are two interesting examples of open government in practice given in this book. These are the websites followthemoney and maplight. The first of these is the website of National Institute on Money in State Politics tracking political donation data. The latter is a public domain database seeking to track money and related influence in legislatures.

To summarize, the book seems to have more chapters than necessary to bring out the perspective. Some chapters are too technical and doubtful to give insight to the targeted audience. With a strong leaning for US examples and discussions, it leaves advancements in other countries out of scope. This is however a good way to see merging of technology in administrations in different ways.

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