Open & Responsive Govt

Every year October 5-12 is being observed as the Right to Information (RTI) week across the country with the respective Information Commissions organizing workshops, seminars, press meets, competition in colleges on RTI related themes etc. It is now more than five years since the revolutionary legislation came into force. Therefore it will be good time to do an appraisal of the progress made so far. As far as Nagaland is concerned, it was always going to be a big task to educate a somewhat lethargic public or get the support from an exclusive government system that thrived on secrecy. The Nagaland Information Commission (NIC) with the three commissioners has under the prevailing scenario, done a good job in establishing both the credentials of the RTI Act as well as the NIC. The commission has shown patience and maturity in its dealing both with the public/complainants as well as with the government machinery. One cannot expect that the RTI will bring about immediate and wholesome changes into our government’s dysfunctions. The first task is to educate the public on this very important piece of legislation so that the Act would prove beneficial for the citizens. Side by side, the Nagaland Information Commission has done well to prepare the government (administrative heads, heads of departments and other public authorities) to enable them to meet their obligations under the RTI Act. The first five-six years has therefore been rightly used to set the ball rolling.
As we move into the next phase of the RTI journey our focus should turn to providing information as a matter of right. This means that there has to be still greater access to not just any information but ‘quality’ and relevantly useful information. In fact if our governments can ‘maximize transparency, there will not be so much wrangling over what should be disclosed. The government departments must ensure ready access to all relevant information. While no doubt many departments have come out with their respective RTI disclosures, at the moment, most of these are in the nature of general information and guidelines. The quality of information disclosed needs to be improved upon. In the last one decade or so, we have seen a tremendous growth of technology permeating into every aspect of our lives. Further there has been vast improvement in the area of computer and mobile technology. All this has helped in improving work output and efficiency as never seen before. Given the advantages that technology can provide, much more effort is needed to co-opt technology into our governance.
It is no secret that the government sector continues to resist change and would prefer to function on the old system of secrecy, red tape and exclusivity. Maybe the Nagaland Information Commission should ask the government departments to go for this technology makeover.  What one will notice as you surf through the plethora of links in our government websites are the half baked effort of the authorities. Most of the department websites/links are there in name only. Recently, a directive came from the Central government, asking that the respective websites of the State government departments should be improved upon. More needs to be done in this area and the Nagaland Information Commission should speak about this during the RTI week i.e. to improve the quality of information and to incorporate technology to aid towards an open government. While the NIC has been working over the initial years for creating public awareness, it will now be expected to do much more especially when it comes to government’s responsiveness and delivery of services.