Knowledge is power, they say. In western countries we aim to control public decision making by making it transparent and opening it for discussion. The voters then have the power to change the decision makers they're unhappy with.
Doesn't the Arab Spring source from lack of that openness?
When we think of the complex causal connections within societies, it is obvious that the voting power is distributed unevenly. How do you care about something you don't understand?
Open data enables democracy
The recent development in ICT comes in handy. Open data makes, say, presenting government spending in a more conceivable way much easier than the dead-boring budget ledgers could ever achieve.
Apps4Finland is a competition that has really boosted innovation for a few years now. It has invited IT nerds to come up with stunning solutions of presenting data. But it is also advancing open government with invitations to open data.
My personal favorite is data visualization. Due to my background, here are a few examples that are closely related to taxation.
Taxes and other payments as a proportion of a working day
A day as an tax payer (F) describes with a watch, how your gross earnings would be divided into different payments. Click the watch for further information. Hovering the mouse above the watch takes you further in details.
First section of your earnings belongs to you, it is your net salary. Second section will cover your municipality tax and the third your state tax. The fourth sector is your share of pension fees and the fifth section will be spent on other minor fees.
Tax receipt shows how you finance the society
Tax receipt (F), on the other hand, shows you, based on your salary, how you will be financing public spending. The application is based on state budget and general information of tax percentages. Since the state budget is quite difficult with its bureaucratic wordings to apprehend, this is quite a nice way to get a hold of the bigger picture of government spending.
Yet another strong symbol of the Nordic openness and equality in Finland is that Tax Administration opens the so called public data on how individuals actually were taxed each year. Tax Administration publishes on its website information on
How the publication of data is carried out (F)
What is included in the public data (F)
Public data can be used to show how the tax laws apply to different tax payer groups. After the people have the information, they will be more able to analyze it and draw conclusions on their society, respectively. And we'll be one step closer to democracy.
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