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Open Government and Democracy: A Research Review

December 06, 2016 by Karin Hansson, Kheira Belkacem, Love Ekenberg

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The concept of open government, having been promoted widely in the past 5 years, has promised a broader notion than e-government, as supposed to fundamentally transform governments to become more open and participative and collaborative. Unfortunately, this has not significantly enhanced a set of fundamental problems regarding e-government. One of the problems is that the underlying democratic ideology is rarely clearly expressed. In this paper, we have therefore constructed a framework for the analysis of open government from a democratic perspective, to explore the research foundation of open government and the types of research missing. We have looked closely at the notion of democracy in peer-reviewed journals on open government from 2009 to 2013, focusing on discussions of some fundamental issues regarding democracy and the type of solutions suggested. We have found that despite seemingly good intentions and an extensive rhetoric, there is still an apparent lack of adequate tools in which public deliberation and representation are addressed in any meaningful sense. There are two main important observations herein: (i) the rhetoric in the dominant discourse supports the concept of open government formulated by the Obama administration as transparency, participation, and collaboration, but in practice, the focus is predominantly on transparency and information exchange, while ignoring fundamental democratic issues regarding participation and collaboration, and (ii) the concept of the public is inadequately considered as a homogenous entity rather than a diversified group with different interests, preferences, and abilities.