All citizens and businesses have an interest in better and easier access to public sector information. One way to achieve this is by making better use of the Internet. Better public information online would make the Internet more relevant to daily lives and so boost the number of Internet users and thereby have spill-over benefits of wider participation in the information society.
The aim is to make public information more easily accessible by extending and simplifying Internet access. This will also stimulate the development of new private sector services based on the new data sources that become available. The potential benefits are therefore widespread: (1) It will bring government services closer to the citizen; (2) It can reduce government expenditure by cutting bureaucracy and red tape; (3) It will create jobs in value-added services providers; and (4) It will create better market information for business.
Governments should ensure easy access to at least four essential types of public data: legal and administrative information, cultural information, environmental information and real time traffic conditions and congestion data.
Governments should extend the use of the Internet to ensure consultation and feedback on major political initiatives. The aim would be to go beyond simply publishing legislation and white papers on the web and establish a discussion and feedback forum possibly with independent moderators.
Governments should ensure that citizens have two-way electronic access to basic interactions (e.g. tax forms, applications for funding etc.) which enables them both to receive information and submit returns.
Within Europe the potential of the Internet could be harnessed to realise the objective of the Amsterdam Treaty to ensure full transparency for citizens on the activities and decision making of the EU Institutions and further ensure that these decisions are taken as openly as possible. Much work has been done by both Member State governments and European Institutions to set up Internet web sites and provide citizens with online access to government information. The best sites are well designed to suit the needs of the non- technical user and permit access to a wide range of legal and administrative information. More needs to be done to make all government sites an easy tool to obtain information and to interact with government services, while respecting Community standards on data privacy.
The lack of easy access to key statistics and business data hampers industry and inhibits the development of private sector value-added services which have been a particularly successful feature of US public information.