E-transparency in Georgia: A key to faith in democracy?

Can more available public information on Georgian governmental websites promote institutional trust and enhance faith in democracy in Georgia? This is the topic of a recent book called “Electronic Transparency in Georgia” by the Institute for Freedom of Information (IDFI). The book presents findings on the accuracy and relevance of information provided on various Georgian governmental websites. The relevant research was carried out in Georgia between August and December 2010 and was within the wider framework of IDFI’s aim to promote access to public information, including budgets, staff salaries in different ministries, among other types of information.

Electronic transparency is becoming more of an issue as internet usage gradually increases in Georgia. The figure below shows that according to the Caucasus Barometer (CB), 18% of Georgians used the internet every day in 2010, whereas 13% used the internet every day in 2009. Data from the CB also consistently shows that those who more frequently use the internet are younger Georgians with more education and live in the capital.

IDFI observes some positive improvements to e-transparency such as the introduction of an online system in October 2010 by the State Procurement Agency. This online system will publish details about tenders and increase transparency in procurement procedures. However, according to IDFI, most governmental websites in Georgia do not display information about their functions, budgets or details about the implementation of state-funded projects. Some sites also do not feature a postal or email address. Subscriptions to news bulletins are rare, as are open platforms where people could express their opinions through forums, polls or blogs.

Can a lack of public information online influence faith in democracy in Georgia? This is especially relevant when bearing in mind the results of the survey,“Public Attitudes Towards Elections in Georgia”conducted by CRRC in April 2010, where 48% of Georgians said they did not believe that Georgia was a developed democracy at that moment (36% said yes, 17% said don’t know and 1% refused to answer).

The findings of the IDFI suggest that Georgia has quite a way to go to achieve governmental openness. According to IDFI, a more open and interactive approach to public information on governmental websites may increase institutional trust, promote active citizenry as well as a belief in democratic government. In addition, a stronger desire for such information from the population and an interest in government activities may encourage more open government. What do you think?

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