Today government bodies’ official websites have become an important source of information concerning the performance of government bodies and local self-government institutions.
Proper realization of the e-Government concept will result not just in improving the efficiency of the government itself but will also contribute to providing the citizens’ access to the state information resources and will make the authorities more transparent to the society. In addition, it will increase to social responsibility of the officials which will definitely lead to an increase in quality of peoples’ life.
It is the way the governmental official websites are maintained that indicates the rate of openness/closeness of particular agencies and the state on the whole; it also demonstrates the accessibility of information on activities of government bodies and bodies of local self-government, decision-making and procedure transparency and also the inclination of a particular agency to corruption.
Implementation of information technologies in the governmental practices has become a priority in information policies of many countries. Obviously, information technologies can become a key link in cooperation between the authorities and the society, provide transparency of the government and enable public control over the government activities. In other words, exercising peoples’ right to free searching and getting information can be regarded a necessary pre-condition for developing a law-based democracy.
The Decree of the Russian Government # 65 of January 28, 2002 “On the Federal Target Program ‘E-Russia (2002-2010)” was a significant step towards implementing information technologies in the practices of the Russian government bodies. The program was aimed at increasing the government efficiency through broad implementation of information and communication technologies as well as providing the citizens’ right to have free access to information on activities of government bodies.
One of the important tasks of the “E-Russia (2002-2010)” federal target program was to provide information openness in government bodies’ practices and accessibility of governmental information resources, to create conditions for effective cooperation between the authorities and the society through using information and communication technologies. It was manifested in creating the “e-Government” concept as part of the “E-Russia (2002-2010)” program. The concept suggests a complete change in the principle of cooperation between the government and the citizens to make it more efficient. Such cooperation should be based on increasing the openness of the governmental information resources and expanding the range of data that have to be published in the information telecommunication networks, the Internet primarily.
At the moment the Internet is the most efficient way of establishing cooperation between the authorities and the society, the most efficient, fast and economical means of spreading the information concerning the performance of the government bodies in the society as well as releasing the official viewpoint to the public. Creating a unified information space within the “E-Russia (2002-2010)” federal target program implementation was an important step in providing all citizens and organizations regardless of their place of residence with equal access to the governmental information resources.
Until recently the information concerning the government bodies’ activities was released irregularly and not in full. It was from the media only that the citizens could learn about the operation of the authorities and newly-adopted statutory acts. But few people were able to get the relevant information from the original source. Nowadays, when information technologies are developing rapidly and computers have become an essential part of everyday life, ‘going online’ has obviously become a necessity for governmental agencies. They should launch the official websites as their Internet offices available for everyone 24/7.
Having a proper official website makes governing bodies more organized and socially-oriented. Knowing the official viewpoint, one can analyze it, to compare them with the alternative sources, to question and to criticize it. Government bodies which are obliged to tell about their activities on-line have no choice but to become more responsible to in performing their duties and more accountable to the citizens.
Consequently, providing access to governmental information resources through the Internet increases social security of the citizens and promotes better stability and effectiveness for the business while fighting corruption in the government bodies.
Government bodies’ official websites should soon become a key source of full and reliable official information on activities of government bodies and bodies of local self-government. This conclusion is based on the following:
• firstly, the governmental information resources are the most sought-after in the society;
• secondly, it is the governing bodies that hold most socially significant information;
• thirdly, the Internet is the most efficient and modern way of spreading the information in the society;
• and, finally, the fact that the state bodies have their own websites makes them socially as well as legally responsible for the data published on these websites, which makes the authorities more accountable to the society.
Other information sources, including the media, are, in theory, independent of the government and cam offer nothing but their own interpretation of the official viewpoint that may be different from the original concept. Streams of information from various media resources make it difficult for an ordinary citizen to find out the official viewpoint of the government over particular topical issues. Accessible governmental electronic resources help to solve this problem.
Another move to achieve better openness of the government bodies was the Information Society Development Strategy approved by the President of Russia on February 7, 2008. This document is aimed at providing higher accessibility of information and technologies and improving the state system guaranteeing providing human and civil rights in the information. This document should be considered a true national concept that determines the state information policy for the near-term prospect and sets guidelines for developing information relations between the government, the society and the individual.
Enforcement of the Federal law “On Providing Access to Information on Activities of Government Bodies and Bodies of Local Self-Government” in 2010 was a landmark event in information accessibility legislation development. The act is aimed at providing transparency of government bodies and bodies of local self-government, implementing information technologies, informing residents and civil society grounds about the activities of government bodies and bodies of local self-government.
The law stipulates the unified procedure for providing the information by government bodies and bodies of local self-government concerning their operation. Information on activities of government bodies and bodies of local self-government is defined by the law as information received in any form from any external sources or produced by the government bodies themselves of their subordinate institutions/agencies. The main principles for exercising the right of citizens and organizations to have access to information on activities of government bodies and bodies of local self-government are openness and accessibility of such information, its reliability, respecting rights and interests of the third parties while providing the information and the responsibility of the government bodies for violating the information access right.
The law also defines the ways of getting information. Now the obligation of all the government bodies and bodies of local self-government to disclose the information on their practices at their official Internet websites according to the attached list has been formally set by a federal act. This list set by the law is of general nature and is to be further detailed by statutory by-law regulations according to the competence of each particular agency.
It should also be noted that another federal act meant to regulate the court information accessibility came into force in 2010. That is the Federal law “On Providing Access to Information on Activities of Courts in the Russian Federation”. Information on activities of courts is defined by the law as any information prepared by courts, by Judicial Department and its agencies, or by communities of judges within their competence as well as information received by them and related to court performance. Russian legislation stipulating the judicial procedure, courts’ powers and operations, as well as those of Judicial department and its agencies, or communities of judges; and court rulings on particular cases and other acts regulating court operation are also regarded as information related to court performance. According to the law, the courts are obliged to provide the information on their activities according to the approved list at their Internet websites.
Thus, after the introduction of federal laws “On Providing Access to Information on Activities of Government Bodies and Bodies of Local Self-Government” and “On Providing Access to Information on Activities of Courts in the Russian Federation” in 2010, government bodies’ official websites turned into official and legally recognized information sources.
We should also mention another statutory act that determines the development of e-Government concept in Russia for the following decade. That is Statement of the Government of the Russian Federation #1815-r of October 20, 2010 “On the “Informational Society” (2011-2020) Governmental Program of the Russian Federation”.
The program is aimed at increasing transparency of government bodies and forming e-Government. To achieve this, the program sets a number of priority policies to 2015, intended to establish electronic cooperation both within the government bodies themselves and between the citizens and the authorities. While doing this government bodies’ official websites are regarded as the principal means of electronic cooperation.
We could wonder how fully the openness and accessibility principle is realized in providing the information related to government bodies, or how much information is provided by the authorities at their Internet websites.
The suggested method of monitoring of the government bodies’ official websites may be applied to get principal indicators demonstrating the present state of affairs in implementing information technologies in the government bodies’ everyday activities and obeying the Federal law ”On Providing Access to Information on Activities of Government Bodies and Bodies of Local Self-Government”.