Monday, February 17, 2014

The Moral Case for Participation in Government

I'm taking a break from discussing philosophers, media theorists and other societal therapists to call attention to Canada's participation in the Open Data Partnership.  Specifically, Canada's participation in the ODP seems to be headed towards providing "the" public with killer apps, rather than access and participation.

Teresa Scassa blogs that ...

The review, carried out by Carleton University Professor Mary Francoli, does note, however, that a number of the government’s other commitments are less ambitious and less directly relevant to the goals of the OGP. This does not mean that they are not worth doing, just that they are less impactful. One issue, therefore, would seem to be whether the government’s plan has struck the right balance between ambitious and significant goals and low hanging fruit.
A further concern is that the broad commitment to open government has been channelled primarily into developments around open data. While open data is important, and while developments in this area have been meaningful, open access and open participation are crucial components of open government and are essential to realizing its objectives. Indeed, one of the recommendations in the review document relates to the need for the government to broaden its focus so as to give more attention to open access and participation.

This topic seems so cold and academic at times, but after reading Christie Blatchford's recent column questioning the utility of inquests this week, I was reminded of the inquest as an audit of government's failure to help people.   Here is a list of inquests scheduled for the Province of Ontario.  So many lives lost.  I went from that list to a list of past inquests , wondering the whole time whether there's any way to follow-up on the recommendations.

So, picking an inquest randomly off the list, I Googled the inquest on the death of Jordan Heikamp.  Were these recommendations followed ?  The search results produced many pages of media and academic discussion, but I only found one official page in the top 3 pages of Google searches - a response from the City of Toronto Medical Officer of Health. 

So - ARE such recommendations followed up ?  Is there a way for us to look into what the operations are, and whether changes have been made and how they're impacting the welfare of those who use the services ?  There may be, but Ontario doesn't make it easy for a public to access and participate in the recommendations about our social services.

If there isn't a way for us to monitor these things directly, are we supposed to rely on the press to notify a fickle and bored mass of people what is happening ? If we as a public don't care, then who will ?

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