Do FOI laws and open government data deliver as anti-corruption policies? Evidence from a cross-country study

Žuffová, Mária (2020) Do FOI laws and open government data deliver as anti-corruption policies? Evidence from a cross-country study. Government Information Quarterly, 37 (3). 101480. ISSN 0740-624X

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    Abstract

    In election times, political parties promise in their manifestos to pass reforms increasing access to government information to root out corruption and improve public service delivery. Scholars have already offered several fascinating explanations of why governments adopt transparency policies that constrain their choices. However, knowledge of their impacts is limited. Does greater access to information deliver on its promises as an anti-corruption policy? While some research has already addressed this question in relation to freedom of information laws, the emergence of new digital technologies enabled new policies, such as open government data. Its effects on corruption remain empirically underexplored due to its novelty and a lack of measurements. In this article, I provide the first empirical study of the relationship between open government data, relative to FOI laws, and corruption. I propose a theoretical framework, which specifies conditions necessary for FOI laws and open government data to affect corruption levels, and I test it on a novel cross-country dataset. The results suggest that the effects of open government data on corruption are conditional upon the quality of media and internet freedom. Moreover, other factors, such as free and fair elections, independent and accountable judiciary, or economic development, are far more critical for tackling corruption than increasing access to information. These findings are important for policies. In particular, digital transparency reforms will not yield results in the anti-corruption fight unless robust provisions safeguarding media and internet freedom complement them.