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Open Government

Open Government is the doctrine that holds that citizens have the right to access the documents and proceedings of the government to allow for effective public oversight.

In its broadest construction it opposes reason of state and other considerations, which have tended to legitimize extensive state secrecy. The origins of open government arguments can be dated to the time of the European Enlightenment: to debates about the proper construction of a then nascent democratic society.

Among recent developments is the theory of open source governance, which advocates the application of the free software movement to democratic principles, enabling interested citizens to get more directly involved in the legislative process.

Open governance is an ideal that has had a slow but inexorable growth. In the democratic world, open governance is the expectation of nearly all citizens.

The principle of open government has been debated since the Enlightment in the 17th and 18th century. It was driven by statesmen such as Thomas Jefferson (3rd US President) and by philosophical writers such as Thomas Payne, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams (2nd US President). It finds an eloquent expression in the United States Declaration of Independence.

Open government supports that proposition that state secrecy is only legitimised in dire circumstance and that all the documents of state are to be accessible to ordinary citizens without impediment so as to ensure that an open public oversight can be effectively maintained.

Open government is seen a hallmark of a democratic society with direct links to laws pertaining to freedom of information.

The credo of open government requires complete transparency and a functioning level of accountability. Its strengths are asserted as helping to disseminate knowledge in matters of science, economics, business, technology as well as the procedures of government.

There is an inherent tendency of governments to move towards secrecy and this can be seen in the justifications of commercial-in-secret paradigms as being proper in government. This is more often seen where there is a public-private partnership agreement. It is also seen where governments are responding to matters of national security and putting aside the expectation of citizen privacy.