Technology will keep the bastards honest

The Open Government NZ 2010 Un-Conference was held in Wellington last week.
Written by Darren Greenwood, Contributor

The Open Government 2010 Un-Conference was held in Wellington last week.

The event attracted little media attention, but it is apparent that new technology will play a major role in delivering honest and open government. The website says:

A central component is the role that emerging technologies such as infrastructure, cloud computing, Web 2.0, open data and information transparency, can play. It also encompasses issues of policy development and governance, the development of human capital, and the utilisation and understanding of the role of social media. In short how does a "services orientated" and "open" government actually function?

As he promoted the event, panellist David Farrar of Kiwiblog was receiving ideas to make government more open, and I am sure he will use his influence with the National Party Government he is associated with. His many readers were already coming up with ideas of their own, and in recent times, we have seen more openness from our government.

Now, you may recall the Expensegate saga from Britain last year, which featured many MPs and ministers making the most dubious claims.

New Zealand has just had its own Expensegate, an event prompted by Prime Minister John Key agreeing to a media request to open up the expenses claims of MPs and ministers dating back several years.

Though no-one here claimed for moats and duck ponds, we did see several former ministers being demoted for some appalling trougher.

This country often follows Britain, and so just as the Guardian newspaper enlisted its readers to analyse the many thousands of documents, Fairfax New Zealand performed a similar "crowdsourcing" experiment to much success.

Thus, we discovered the current trade minister likes a few drinks from the mini-bar after a conference and one former Labour minister enjoys massages and bought flowers for his boyfriend.

Britain has just released more expense claims and the Guardian again repeated its exercise. But knowing their claims will make the papers, it seems British MPs are now better behaved.

For similar reasons, the New Zealand Government has just announced it will similarly also publish the expenses of the governor general.

Back in Britain, its new government has just launched COINS — a huge database showing how public money is spent and where it comes from. A new government website also aims to enlist public support and advice for future cost-cutting. And now we see British deputy PM Nick Clegg launching a website to help voters tell him which laws they would like dropped or changed.

Based on the way we still follow Mother Britain, I am sure such developments will soon find their way to New Zealand.

It might not yet be the Government 2.0 that some people talk about, but we can see how technology will help keep the bastards open, prudent and honest.

Editorial standards