"When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of science, whatever the matter may be."
Lord Kelvin

Transparency and Responsibility. Content analysis of town websites from four European countries – 2015

July 5th 2016

In this paper the CRCB analyses – as part of a pilot research project – 92 City Council websites of four European countries (Great-Britain, France, Germany and Hungary) using content analysis. We are trying to explore two questions: to what extent transparency is present (i) and how the principle of responsibility appear on the local government websites (ii)? The data collection took place between September and November 2015.

The transparency of the operation of the local governments and the follow-up of their decision making process by the citizens are very important to achieve good governance. Is it vital that citizens should easily access the data concerning the decisions made by their local governments, the background studies, and the preparatory reports for the decisions and concepts.

In addition, responsibility is also crucial at the political and professional decisions made by the local government. Not only are the publication of the following year’s budget or data on public procurement decisions relevant, or, whether the citizens can find them on the website, but also whether these documents indicate or not the name of their authors or decision-makers. It is not only important whether the data concerning the budget or public procurements appear on the local governments’ websites, but also whether the decision-makers “give their face” to these decisions, and the citizens could reach the decision-makers through the local government websites.

The results show that the websites of British local governments provide their citizens with considerably richer and more information than the websites of the cities in the European continent. In the British city websites much more information appear about their local governments, about their mayor and the members of the representative bodies, local government departments than on the European ones. In this context, information about responsibility is more common at British local governments than in the case of the cities on the continent. The leaders of Great Britain’s cities undertake more personal responsibilities for their decisions, successes and possible failures – unless they hide themselves, they are less faceless, than the leaders of French, German, or Hungarian cities.

 

paper in Hungarian (pdf)

database in csv format (csv)

database and do file in stata format (zip)