A study of three cities released today by the Pew's Internet & American Life Project and the Monitor Institute finds that citizens' trust in their government is strongly tied with their engagement and involvement in their communities. When the local government is transparent, accountable and readily accessible the study shows that citizens are more likely to be satisfied with city services ranging from libraries to the fire department. At Sunlight, this news is hardly a surprise, but it is always gratifying to read a reputable and thorough study that confirms our mission.
[G]overnment transparency is associated with residents’ feelings of efficacy and empowerment: Those who think their government shares information well are more likely to say that people like them can have an impact on government. It might be the case that signals from government that “we want to be open about what we do” make people think they can take advantage of that openness and influence the way the government operates.
The research, entitled 'How the Public Perceives Community Information Systems', focused on three cities: Macon, Philadelphia and San Jose. Each community is demographically unique and has different levels of enthusiasm to share municipal information. The eight-month study found that broadband users are more likely to seek information online and be involved in their civic institutions, though they are often more critical of their local government as they are exposed to more issues in their neighborhood.
This exploratory study follows up on discussions from the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy that argues a "healthy democratic community depends on a strong information system and engaged citizens who take advantage of that information." Key indicators of a strong community includes:
- A local government with a committed policy on transparency
- Ready access to information that enhances quality of life, including information provided by trusted intermediary organizations in the community on a variety of subjects
- A majority of government information and services online, accessible through a central and easy to use portal
What is your experience with your government? You should tell us about it and check back on our soon-to-be-announced Transparency Camp.