Open Government


An open and accountable government is the cornerstone to a healthy democracy.

YPDA Hawaiʻi supports legislation that expands voting rights and protects the public's right to access the documents and proceedings of the government to allow for effective public oversight. In its broadest construction, open government 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.


The contemporary doctrine of open government finds its strongest advocates in non-governmental organizations (NGOs) keen to counter what they see as the inherent tendency of government to lapse, whenever possible, into secrecy. Prominent among these NGOs are bodies like Transparency International or the Open Society Institute, as well as Common Cause Hawaii and the League of Women Voters. They advocate the implementation of norms of openness and transparency across the globe and argue that such standards are vital to the ongoing prosperity and development of democratic societies.

Advocates of open government often argue that civil society, rather than government legislation, offers the best route to more transparent administration. They point to the role of whistleblowers reporting from inside the government bureaucracy (individuals like Daniel Ellsberg or Paul van Buitenen). They argue that an independent and inquiring press, printed or electronic, is often a stronger guarantor of transparency than legislative checks and balances.

Other advocates include President Obama who, in 2009, sought out an Open Government Initiative in order to improve the trust within the United States government and " establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration." His strategy for transparency correlates with democratic values in how it allows for greater sight into the functions of the governmental institutions. Openness allows for more insight into the government, which gives the citizenry a greater sense to engage politically and collaborate to improve their own standing and the efficiency of the government's legislative processes. His platform of endorsing the accessibility of government data online to the public paves the way for increased transparency to governing systems and for an openness that allows the public to view and establish opinions on policies concerning themselves and their fellow voters. His willingness for openness in governmental institutions demonstrates transparency for the benefit of the citizens and their concerns with the government and society as a whole.

Along with an interest in providing more access to information goes a corresponding concern for protecting citizens' privacy so they are not exposed to "adverse consequences, retribution or negative repercussions" from information provided by governments.

A relatively new vision for the implementation of open government is coming from the municipal sector. In a similar fashion to grassroot movements, open government technology expert Tobias SK Cichon postulates that the swarming pressure of small local governments using technology to implement open government solutions will lead to similar adoptions by larger municipalities and eventually state, provincial and federal level changes.

The use of technology within the political realm has grown through Open Government Data (OGD), which provides for the data to be accessible in any format. Users of this data have several purposes in regards to government, technology, or other specific focuses. These include government focus, technology innovation focused, reward focused, digitizing government, problem solving, and social/public sector enterprise. These focuses help expand the broad scope of Open Government Data toward furthering technological use within the government and towards more transparency within governmental institutions.

Governments that enable public viewing of data can help citizens engage within the governmental sectors and "add value to that data." Easily accessible data pertaining to governmental institutions and their information give way to citizens' engagement within political institutions that ensure just, democratic access for the benefit of the citizenry and the political system. "Open data can be a powerful force for public accountability—it can make existing information easier to analyze, process, and combine than ever before, allowing a new level of public scrutiny." The openness of data that a governing system provides ensures a greater sense of transparency within the function of this system, to ensure that there is accountability for how this system runs. Open data enables for greater openness in this government through providing information on government-related data pertaining to technology, politics, and social sectors. This enables citizens to get a grasp on what the government is up to and what they are planning on implementing, opening up information to see how the government is taking account of their citizens and their concerns.

Public and private sector platforms provide an avenue for citizens to engage while offering access to transparent information that citizens have come to expect. Numerous organizations have worked to consolidate resources for citizens to access government (local, state and federal) budget spending, stimulus spending, lobbyist spending, legislative tracking, and more.

Despite the obvious and undeniable benefits that come from increased government transparency, a number of scholars have questioned the moral certitude behind much transparency advocacy, questioning the foundations upon which advocacy rests. They have also highlighted how transparency can support certain neoliberal imperatives.

2018 Bills we support


Additional Resources

Common Cause Hawaii

The League of Women Voters


Campaign Finance Data

Hawaii State Lobbying Disclosure

Hawaii State Sunshine Law