Being where the people are: the EU, open government & social media


  • Jasmijn van der Most



With the expansion of Internet it has become easier to disseminate information to everyone everywhere.With information, allegedly, come opportunities to empower people. Quite often, companies and institutions such as schools or hospitals willingly provide information on Internet for everyone to see and thus provide transparency for the benefit of the public (and of course also for themselves). The same development has been occurring in politics, not in the least because Western democracies are facing a number of problems that threaten their legitimacy. Citizens feel uninformed about policies, voter turnouts have declined, and there is a widespread lack of trust in government. It seems that citizens feel incapable, disinterested or unwilling to hold their government accountable for their actions, despite this being a vital part of representative democracy. Of all contemporary Western institutions the EU is perhaps the one that faces the biggest legitimacy problems,because of its supranational nature, contested powers and complex decision making procedures.Since US President Obama launched the Open Government Initiative (OGI) in 2009, the idea gained momentum that information as well as participation and collaboration are key to empowering people and regaining accountability. This became a global project when the Open Government Partnership (OGP) was established in 2011, in which 65 countries committed themselves to implement ambitious reforms to boost openness. The EU has also made its efforts to realize a more open government. Via its website, the EU provides all sorts of information on for example recipients of EU funds, access to documents, decision-making and much more. But how can people be empowered when the information provided does not really reach them because they barely take the effort to visit government websites or watch parliamentary debates? This paper suggests that if the people are not where the government is, perhaps government should be where the people are: on social media.