For some time now, there has been a big buzz in the development community around good governance, open government and the need for citizen-state collaboration built on trust. This is at the core of sustainable development, and in this context Access to Information (ATI) plays a critical role. Citizens’ ready access to government information—through information requests or proactive disclosure by government—is a key dimension of open government and a necessary condition for meaningful citizen participation.
When citizens have access to information they can, for example, learn about and demand their entitlements under certain government programs: By finding out how public resources are allocated and used, such as the availability of medicines in local health centers, citizens can provide concrete feedback for better services.
Right to Information Act
In my last blog, I wrote about ADR, which is fighting corruption using the Right to Information Act. In the early 2000s, Anna Hazare (Anna is pronounced un-nah) led a movement in the Indian state of Maharashtra that forced the Government to pass a strong Right to Information Act. This Maharashtra Act formed the basis for the Right to Information Act 2005 (RTI), enacted by the Central Government. Anna Hazare has once again fought and won a significant battle against corruption. Anna was, until recently fasting until death at Jantar Mantar in order to put pressure on the Government of India to enact an anti-corruption act called the Jan Lokpal Bill. This past Saturday he called off his “hunger strike” after receiving a gazette notification from the Centre on the constitution of a joint committee, comprising members from the government and civil society, for preparation of the draft Lokpal Bill. This bill proposes the establishment of a Lokpal (ombudsman) with the power to counter corruption in public office.