Varieties of Software and their Implications for Effective Democratic Government

L. Jean Camp

in Transparency: The Key to Better Governance?

Published by British Academy

Published in print September 2006 | ISBN: 9780197263839
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734915 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Varieties of Software and their Implications for Effective Democratic Government

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As governmental processes and judgments become increasingly digital, the transparency of digital systems that implement the processes of government becomes increasingly important. Open code is a necessary but not sufficient prerequisite for maintaining transparency as democracy becomes digitized, and complete openness of process is not appropriate for every domain. This chapter explores some of the complexities in the relationship between openness of code and democratic government. Computer code controls and enables the actions of users, and for users to have true autonomy they must be able to examine, alter, and redistribute the code. A key issue for transparency is the degree to which this observation applies to the activities of government that are embedded in computer code. Free software creates a fundamentally different market structure than closed code. The philosophy of free software argues that the inability to view code that implements governance suggests totalitarian and Kafkaesque control, a constraining complex network of rules and regulations.

Keywords: transparency; democracy; openness; computer code; open code; free software; closed code; governance

Chapter.  5164 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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