Governmental transparency is required to protect a democratic society. It is what enables parliament to check the activities of the administration and the citizens to inform themselves before voting or, possibly, entering court. The digital world has given us open data and open standards, which brings the see-through government even closer. Only this see-through government can be fully democratic, as it spreads information evenly, enables public evaluation and brings down technocratic arrogance.

The see-through government refers to a national administration where potentially every action is public. Of course, there are exceptions. Most notably are information directly concerning individuals and information directly concerning national safety. Please note that individuals is not the same individual officials. We already know what our prime minister is up to, and will still know when the government is fully transparent.

Proposals such as the see-through government are often met with a certain caution. A fear that all sorts of secrets will end up on the street. Now, if the government were a person, I would concur. However, the government of a nation is a body made up of all its citizens. So, it would be strange if your feet did not know what your head is up to.

Technocratic Arrogance: Because I Know What is Best for You
Some time ago, a Dutch minister mentioned that the legislation proposed by the government is like a sausage: one does not want to know what is inside it. I can only call this a remark with obvious arrogance. Apparently, this specific minister would like you to eat whatever he hands you. Besides, given the fuss generated by food ingredient related scandals, I would say that our citizens do mind eating a sausage that is not made from meat or tofu-related products.

This attitude is what I call technocratic arrogance. This means an attitude where the administrator bases his competence only on reports and states that he has a much better idea of what is best than the citizens have. I am not saying here that listening to experts is wrong, but I do say that an attitude of arrogance towards the citizens can be deadly to a democracy. If we cannot even trust the citizens to make wise choices, the members of parliament they elect must be worthless. For the record, I am referring to you, dear arrogant ministers out there.

End the Battle for Information
The task of parliament is driven by the amount of information they have. This is quite obvious: if you know what is happening, you can check if this is going the right direction. The same holds in the relation between parliament and citizens. Although we put our trust in the members of parliament we elect, it would be nice if we can see if they act as we hoped.

A completely transparent government cannot take an advantage over parliament or the citizens by withholding information. Such a government can be fully checked by anyone that takes part in the democratic process.

Security! Keep our Governmental Processes Secret!
When it concerns issues of security, we all know that security through obscurity is generally not a good idea. Coming from a world of information security specialists, I can say that it is commonly a better idea to have as much information openly available and only rely on the secrecy of locks and the trustworthiness of vaults and guards.

Open systems enable public security evaluation. Great examples come from the world of cryptography, where public algorithms withstand numerous attempts to break them, although they are fully public. This can also be translated to other things to be secured: if the security is well designed, it should survive in openness. If it does not survive being public, it was never secure in the first place.

Open Data and Open Standards for Democracy
The next step in strengthening our democracy lies with governmental transparency. We should move to a state where transparency is the default and secrecy the exception. If we use digital technologies for this transparency, we can cut out all the bureaucracy that currently overshadows requests to inspect governmental documents. Governmental transparency can kill technocratic arrogance, enables public evaluation of governmental policy and security, and, most importantly, levels the balance of information. Therefore, on to the see-through government!

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