Q1. How, where, and under what circumstances is there a link between more and better data and citizens’ increased access to that data?
Q2. How, where, and under what circumstances does citizens’ increased access to more and better data lead to a more accountable political settlement?
More and better data is thought to be a necessary but not sufficient
condition for increasing citizens’ access to that data. Likewise,
increased access to more and better data is seen as a necessary but not
sufficient condition for strengthening a government’s political
accountability to its citizens. To date, however, there is limited
understanding of exactly how, where and under what circumstances
transparency and accountability initiatives lead to increased access to
data and improved political accountability. Ongoing research programmes
aim to address this gap.
In the meantime studies have started to identify key factors that affect
transparency and accountability outcomes. Factors affecting the link
between more and better data and increasing citizens’ access to that
- Data quality.
- Citizens’ capabilities and needs: these depend on a society’s levels
of technology, literacy, education and social capital.
- Discrimination and inequality: the potential of transparency to
promote inclusion and empowerment can be diminished by persistent
power imbalances blocking marginalised and disadvantaged people and
groups from accessing data.
- Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have potential to
bridge the gap between data and citizens but technological and human
capital deficits can limit their reach.
- Info-mediaries such as the media, technology innovators, civil society
organisations, and international platforms play a vital role in
bridging the gap between data and citizens.
Factors shaping whether increased citizens’ access to more and better
data may result in a more accountable political settlement include:
- Supply-side: the level of democratisation, political will and broader
political economy and legal frameworks and incentive structures; and
processes of political transition and opportunities for reform.
- Demand-side: the type of information shared, engaging citizens in the
design and implementation of transparency policies; understanding the
contextual triggers for individual behavioural change; supporting CSOs
and other collective mobilisation strategies; and other activities by
- State-society governance processes
Carter, B. Transparency and accountability (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1067). Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK (2014) 18 pp.