Transparency has got to be a good thing,
right? Transparency will save us from corruption and mismanagement. It will
ensure we can trace the entities involved in complex transactions. It will
bring real accountability to business and government.
However, as Dr
Dennis McDonald points out in his analysis of the Government Accountability
Office (GAO) report on Federal Data Transparency, transparency is expected to
appear automatically as a by-product of best practices – including the use of
standards. And he finds no answers to these pertinent questions: “How is
'transparency' defined? What does it mean to make spending data 'transparent?' What is 'transparent' and to whom is it
'transparent'? For what purposes are the
data made 'transparent'?”
The same questions occur in business. But,
in business, transparency is driven by repeating the last question – namely,
who and what is this data being supplied for? The answers to this question
identify different destinations for the data, and different requirements for
the data's quality and timeliness.
But – and this is the kicker from the standards angle – every conceivable use and user of data needs to have confidence in both the business meaning and the practical usability of the data. It doesn't ultimately matter who they are and what they want to do with the data. Standards underwrite meaning and usability without reference to use or user. Sure, standards do not create transparency. But I submit that transparency depends on standards.
As for a definition of transparency, I
offer this: The ability of interested non-creators to access, understand, and
operate with, data. Federal Data Transparency Report