Openness and transparency are vital components of democracy but it has only been recently that our government has embraced the full meaning of this fact.
Civil servants have slowly woken up to the importance of such democratic components, generally because avoiding them puts them at risk of being shamed by the media. There was the very public cash-for-questions scandal in the 1990s, and the more recent expenses scandal, which both - through shame - drove government officials to become more accountable.
While there still remains an important debate to be had on how much politicians should be required to disclose details of their personal lives and affairs, there is now at least widespread government acknowledgement that public data belongs to the masses. Also emerging is a new culture of openness among government officials - a desire to be more accessible to the public, to be freer in the way they conduct business, and less bound by tradition, especially when the old ways are quite clearly costly and inefficient.
What's interesting is that the realisation of the need to open-up government, with regards to all the above, has occurred all by itself, without any media shaming involved.
This opening up of government has been led by the government's IT chiefs and digital champions, who are most often hidden from the main political limelight. They have been busy spearheading one of the few government strategies at the moment that actually deserves recognition.
Of course, saying all this, part of the new open government has been the Open Data strategy, which has received a fair amount of public attention, and is often cited in government rhetoric. But this strategy was pursued by the upper echelons of government, when Gordon Brown appointed two information advisors, Nigel Shadbolt and Sir Tim Berners-Lee in 2009, to help transform public access to government information.
This policy continues to be in the public eye, especially now that Wikipedia chief Jimmy Wales has been appointed by the government as another open data advisor, and the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act has been amended to encourage the strategy.
It is initiatives like the Open Standards consultation, the ICT Futures commitments, the G-Cloud framework and the Digital Engagement strategy that are quietly being pursued by the IT government officials in Whitehall's shadows.
Such agendas aim to simplify public interaction with government and make it easier for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and open source companies to partner with the public sector.
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