Many countries in Asia have recently been following the global trend by introducing the right to information (RTI) law to build open and accountable government systems. This article compares the implementation of such law in four countries in the Asian region (India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Thailand) to assess how they have produced outcomes supporting open government (OG) goals. Drawing on an extensive review of the conceptual literature, secondary sources and official publications, it shows that, notwithstanding many promising features, RTI laws have performed poorly within the overarching notion of OG. Implementation has suffered from numerous deficits and challenges implicating both the demand and supply-side actors—those who seek information and those who are mandated to provide information under the law. Such challenges, together with an inherent flaw, deviation from rules, technical blunders and bureaucratic indifference and non-compliance, have rendered the RTI law mostly ineffective. The paper highlights current deficits/snags and underscores the imperative of raising the awareness and capacity at both community and official levels and creating a culture where transparency and openness is valued over secrecy and confidentiality. This would require strong political commitment, selfless bureaucratic support and genuine citizen engagement.
- open government
- right to information