Information technology: the key to open government

The success of the freedom of information regime will owe much to information technology, according to Richard Susskind, chairman of the Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information and IT adviser to the Lord Chief Justice.

"IT is changing the relationship between the individual and the state. Before the 1990s, most government was closed government — official information was made available, largely, on a need-to-know basis. Restricting the flow of information was clearly central to totalitarian rule. But benevolent democracies also held back, adopting a paternalistic posture, releasing information sparingly. Perhaps it was not in people’s interests to know too much."

Susskind argues that this is now changing with the advent of the internet and the proactive stance of the UK government in its drive to make all of the information created in the process of governing available to the people. To further this aim the government is also consulting on the new EC directive on the re-use of public sector information which will be implemented in July. Its proposals include the establishment of a new Office of Public Sector Information (

How IT can be asked to Open Sesame online (The Times, 25 January 2005)