Government information: Literacies, behaviours and practices

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Government Information Quarterly, 2017, 34 (1), pp. 8 - 15
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© 2016 Elsevier Inc. The current trend in the delivery of government information online is predicated on the belief that it will enable improvements in the provision of government services and citizens' participation in democratic processes. Government policy in this matter is wrapped in the rhetoric of public accessibility, that is, it must be easy to find, to access and to use. This paper draws upon a case study to explore the validity of this rhetoric; it uses Pierre Bourdieu's concept of society as a metaphorical game in which different players, government and citizens, play with different rules, a situation that can result in mismatches and conflicts in expectations and beliefs. Societal understanding of accessibility to government information is more nuanced and multidimensional than accessibility as an institutional practice within government departments, and requires high levels of digital and civic literacies. The case study findings demonstrate that accessibility did not meet the expectations of a group of university students who were both digitally and civically literate but were not able to find documents mandated to be published. The research concludes that there is a gap between the assumptions of the providers of government information and the expectations of their users; this disparity raises issues of social justice that will need to be bridged if government policies for online information delivery are to fulfil their objectives and rhetoric.
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