To honor Aaron Swartz, O’Reilly Media has made its new book on “Open Government” publicly available on GitHub. (Aaron Swartz was one of the book contributors, authoring Chapter 25: “When is Transparency Useful?”). In the Preface, the editors define Open Government as follows:
“What is open government? In the most basic sense, it’s the notion that the people have the right to access the documents and proceedings of government. The idea that the public has a right to scrutinize and participate in government dates at least to the Enlightenment,
and is enshrined in both the U.S. Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. Its principles are recognized in virtually every democratic country on the planet.
But the very meaning of the term continues to evolve. The concept of open government has been influenced—for the better—by the open source software movement, and taken on a greater focus for allowing participation in the procedures of government. Just as open source software allows users to change and contribute to the source code of their software, open government now means government where citizens not only have access to information, documents, and proceedings, but can also become participants in a meaningful way. Open government also means improved communication and operations within the various branches and levels of government. More sharing internally can lead to greater efficiency and accountability.”