“Information sharing is the key to the Government’s goal of delivering better, more efficient public services that are coordinated around the needs of the individual.” In light of the statement, explain the essentials of information sharing and citizen charter in public service. (15 Marks)

Mentors Call:

  • Ethics by Lexicon 
  • The question is in the context of essentials of information sharing and citizen charter in public service.
  • The answer must discuss in detail the aspects of information sharing in public services and the significance of citizen charter in public service.
  • In a few introductory lines define what is information sharing and citizen’s charter.
  • Explain the following in the main body of the answer:
    • What is meant by citizen charter?
    • What are the objectives of the citizen charter?
    • Information sharing and its role in good governance
    • Give examples and justify their role in public services.
  • Conclude with the importance of these in public services and good governance in general.

Answer:

The Right to Information Act, 2005 empowers citizens to get information from any ‘public authority’. The basic objective of the RTI Act is to empower the citizens, promote transparency and accountability in the working of the Government and make our democracy work for the people in real sense.

A Citizens’ Charter represents the commitment of the Organisation towards standard, quality and time frame of service delivery, grievance redress mechanism, transparency and accountability. The concept of the Citizens Charter enshrines the trust between the service provider and its users.

The basic objective of the Citizens Charter is to empower the citizen in relation to public service delivery.

Information sharing and its role in good governance:

  • Fighting corruption: By reducing the secrecy in which decisions are taken and disclosure of the information and thereby transparency increases. This helps in fighting corruption and its various evil faces.
  • Making governments more efficient: The responsibility of the governments increases as they have to be accountable to people about their decisions. This brings in the true essence of democracy which enables citizens to more fully participate in public life. The public trust and the credibility of the government will increase.
  • Encouraging investment: It eases the business environment. The investors gain more confidence and are willing to invest and expand better.
  • Empowerment of citizens: Helps persons exercise their fundamental human rights and fight in case it is impinged.
  • Strengthening operations: To strengthen institutions, modernize the public administration and address civil unrest.
  • Reduce Information Asymmetry: To ensure that every citizen is able to access the credible and right information which helps in his overall development.

Way forward:

  • Repealing of the Official Secret Act as iterated by 2nd ARC.
  • Introducing an oath of transparency for bureaucrats and politicians.
  • To use of multi-media campaigns in local languages for awareness of benefits of information sharing.
  • The benefits of setting up regional offices far outweigh the initial capital costs involved in setting them up. So there is a need to set up regional offices to reduce the geographical reach issues.
  • The role of the Centre/State Government is to facilitate the Public Authorities in the implementation of the Act. This can happen through providing support to Public Authorities for training, development of software applications, e-Training modules, generating awareness amongst citizens etc.
  • Effective use of Media – print, electronic to reduce the information asymmetry. Increasing the data protection standards to safeguard the privacy of individuals.
  • Social Audit as a tool for information sharing and transparency in rural employment programmes should be promoted.
  • E-Governance as a tool at all levels of governance should be adopted to curb corruption, increase transparency and accountability.

The words of Sir Francis Bacon — “Knowledge is power” — aptly bring out the essence of the importance of Information. Information sharing is the key to the Government’s goal of delivering better, more efficient public services that are coordinated around the needs of the individual. It is essential to enable early intervention and preventative work, for safeguarding and promoting welfare and for wider public protection.

 

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