Russia: E-Gov Blogger Discusses Technology and Transparency (Video)

Yekaterina Aksyonova [ru], creator of, one of the most informative blogs about e-government in Russia, met with Global Voices at Central Asian BarCamp recently and answered several questions on the role of technology and transparency.

Aksyonova is a government contractor and the creator of number of websites for the federal government. She describes her blog and her vision of government transparency the following way:

В средневековом Нюрнберге существовал полезный обычай: все члены городского совета должны были идти на очередное заседание пешком, чтобы любой гражданин города мог лично подать прошение или выразить свое мнение о решениях магистрата. Кроме того, традиция была хорошим способом держать отцов города в тонусе.

На мой взгляд, государственные сайты должны стать своеобразным возвращением к правилам вольного города Нюрнберга. Вряд ли в скором времени депутаты и чиновники будут принимать обращения по дороге на работу, но с тех пор, как власть вышла в интернет, она снова оказалась на одной улице со своими гражданами. Хорошие государственные сайты упрощают многие задачи, мгновенно выдают нужную информацию и даже обеспечивают оформление разнообразных справок и бумажек. Плохие государственные сайты, во всяком случае, раскрывают безжалостную правду о своих ведомствах.

Medieval Nuremberg [a city in Bavaria, Germany] had a useful tradition: all members of the city council were supposed go to the council meetings by foot, so that any citizen could personally pass them an appeal or express an opinion about the city council's decisions. Beside, this tradition was a good way to keep city's officials in shape.

To my mind, government websites should be somewhat returned to the rules of the free city of Nuremberg. I doubt whether the deputies and officials would receive petitions while going to work, but since they're on the Internet they are [virtually] on the same “street” as their citizens. Good government websites make a lot of tasks easier, instantly providing much-needed information and even facilitating the execution of various papers. Bad government websites, at all events, disclose the merciless truth about their institutions.

Russian government is extremely corrupt. According to the Corruption Perception Index 2010, a comparative tool to rank countries according to perception of corruption in the public sector, Russia ranks 154 out of 178, standing between Papua New Guinea and Tajikistan.

Russian netizens have shown a great deal of effort through a number of ‘grass-roots’ online transparency initiatives. Recently, a Russian anti-corruption portal, received the 2011 Best of the Blogs (BOBs) award in the category “Best Use of Technology for Social Good.” On April 22, 2011, The Power of the Families, another project dedicated to nepotism and corruption in the Russian government was also launched.

Aksyonova's point is that not only the citizens can achieve better transparency, the government can do it as well. Wherever such a belief is naive or not, it is still worth listening to.

Below is a short interview with Yekaterina, in Russian with English subtitles [for subtitles push the “CC” button under the video and choose “English”].

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