Transparency as an instrument of power and democracy

By Tiziana Alti, Cristina Barbieri

The principle of administrative transparency seeks to place itself — akin to a diaphragm — between the state and citizens, at the heart of public power, as an instrument of democracy. Indeed, its broad ideological scope calls for a democratic transformation and redistribution of power between the state and citizens. The second part of the article discusses the actual processes through which administrative transparency is implemented in Italy. In the background, the article poses the question of the distributive effects of the digitization process. The text analyses two aspects: (a) the ability of administrations to offer transparency; and (b) how citizens need it. In the final part, once the concept of power ha been defined, the article discusses what kind of power is handed over to citizens through dissemination and accessibility. It is proposed to study the effects of civic access on administrative behavior assuming a possible «rule of anticipated reactions», but contesting their participatory dimension. Finally, the text distinguishes between the power of control and the power of participation, concluding that projects of administrative transparency, as actually implemented, neither provide nor shed light on channels and organizations that fulfill the function of democratic participation.