Syndicate content

Carter Center

FOI: Through the Looking Glass

Paul Mitchell's picture

I was passing through Accra recently and while walking through the lobby of the hotel was stopped by a poster for a regional conference on Freedom of Information and at the same time ran into several colleagues and old friends. It was an interesting exercise to be very aware of an issue and personalities but be on the outside looking. The conference was well attended, drawn by the start power of former US president Jimmy Carter, his center and high level activist and political figures from Africa. The Carter Center which has been at the forefront of this work is able to draw attention to and raise the profile of the issue in West Africa.
 

But what did it all mean to local people? When I asked Ghanaians working or staying at the hotel about the conference, there was very high recognition but mostly it was linked to former President Carter. But the issue drew little recognition or excitement. Ghana did announce that after years of languishing on the books an FOI bill would be introduced into Parliament. But to the people outside of the conference this would have little impact on their daily lives. Their worries were much more about food, shelter, safety, schooling and the actions of the government in power on their lives. 
 

Transparency, Participation, Collaboration

Antonio Lambino's picture

On my way home from work last Friday, I chanced upon a fascinating interview on C-SPAN radio on government transparency, access to public information, and citizen participation at the U.S. Federal level.  New York Law School Professor Beth Noveck, currently serving as White House deputy chief technology officer, was talking about the open government initiative.  One of its key components is a site (whitehouse.gov/open) dedicated to Web 2.0-based transparency, participation, and collaboration efforts of the U.S. Federal Government.  The site links to online resources where citizens can access public information (transparency) and provide input into the policymaking process (participation).  The goal is not just consulting citizens on public matters, said Noveck, but a structured process through which they can help generate actual policy options.  Other links bring users to sites that seek specialist input on military science, education, small businesses, and technology applications in international development (collaboration).