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The Great Transparency Conundrum

For years, we've written about efforts by states and localities to provide greater transparency.

Dashboards are popping up like numerical dandelions; webinars have become prolific during the pandemic; and data points are growing at a rate that renders some almost unusable.

But with all the information out there, why -- we wonder -- is it growing increasingly difficult for academics, analysts and journalists to solicit the kind of background information that only comes from human contact?

Just for starters, have you tried online to find an e-mail address for a public sector official. Try for a handful and -- depending on the place -- we pretty much guarantee that you'll wind up frustrated in at least a couple of cases. This may be attributable to a fear of hacking, but it feels like a tragedy of the modern era to us that government employees are increasingly out of reach.

Next step is to make a phone call, right? But phone numbers are even harder to find than e-mail addresses. (And we've been at this for decades -- pity the poor layman who is trying to talk to government in writing or telephonically.)

Some governments use fill-in-the-blanks forms to reach a source. It feels kind of efficient to send in a request that way. But the sensation is the opposite while awaiting a response.

Are you having the same experiences as we are? Let us know


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