There has been a worldwide trend in recent times toward more openness in the system of governance. Various factors have contributed to the new upsurge for governmental openness. More important among these are:
- Changing socio-economic milieu
- Increased awareness of the public about their rights
- The need to have a fully accountable and responsive administration and
- growing public opinion that views continued practice of bureaucratic secrecy as a potent factor in enhancing the chances of abuse of authority by government functionaries.
In most of the countries where large-scale administrative reforms have been attempted recently, emphasis has been laid on liberalizing the extent to which details of policy, performance and other information about government activities are made available to the general public.
There is universal recognition now that people’s right to information is the foundation of a healthy and functioning democracy. Experience tells us that the more the citizens know, the better prepared and more motivated they are to effectively participate in the decisions that affect their lives and property and their physical and economic well-being.
The people’s right to official information is an indispensable element of a functioning democracy. The people’s right to official information is also essential in economic life. A free flow of official information results in better government policies. It provides the institutional foundation for a more responsive government planning by enhancing the capacity of the public to provide timely feedback to government.
The availability of official information widens the base for the generation of more knowledge about key development issues, not only by researchers and academic institutions, by also by the public at large. It promotes constructive and informed debate between and among government and stakeholders and builds consensus around policy objectives and design. All these promote more informed government interventions supported by a solid and broad-based constituency.
Need for the Right to Information:
- First and foremost, availability of this right makes for the empowerment of the people who would otherwise be ignorant about the processes of governance.
- Second, the right to information creates conditions for ‘open governance’ which is the foundation of democracy.
- Third, the right to information is an investment in people’s trust in government which is the real basis of democratic governance.
- Fourthly, the educating influence of local government is the product of openness affording access to government departments and documents and thus enabling citizens to acquire knowledge about the goings on in government.
- Fifth, the right to information, by removing unnecessary secrecy surrounding the decision-making process in government makes the citizens ‘co-shares’ in public policy making and administration. This helps improve the quality of overall governance in public interest.
- Sixth, grassroots democracy – the government at the cutting edge level – becomes much more authentic and people-centric when people participate directly and observes at firsthand how the government functions in reality. Participative governance is a sure safeguard against ‘secret’ government.
- Lastly, people’s right to information brings about a major change in the ‘quality’ of government by making it really ‘public’. People’s easy access to information about governmental operations as a matter of ‘right’ makes these operations open and transparent. It ensures accountability and responsiveness to people’s needs and demands.