Access to information is vital to enable citizens to lend their voices, effectively keep the government on track, and dialogue critical decisions that affect their well being. Access to information is considered as essential empowerment, which avails all citizens the ability to demand their rights and other entitlements.
Access to information, itself, does not translate to good governance; the potential contributions to good governance lie in the ability of the citizens to judiciously use the right in demanding accountability in government, as well as the willingness of the public office holders to be transparent. These conditions may, however, affect the expected benefits of access to information.
A vital question to ask regarding this is how access to information and government transparency can advance the needs of the poor and vulnerable and guarantee accountability in government.
It is argued that access to information may not necessarily translate to good governance, active citizenship or government accountability. This is due to the presence of political and structural barriers which affect the willingness of governments to produce information, as well as the right of the citizens to use such access to demand good governance.
Some of these barriers include:
Lack of active and total government support for access to information, especially in contexts where undemocratic political legacies or closed governments exist.
Lack of citizen awareness of their constitutional right to information, or the lack of willingness among citizens, either due to the fear of repressive actions from government officials or a prevailing culture of silence on government shortcomings.
Structural barriers also hinder access to and use of information among poor citizens, particularly the ones in remote communities. This is due to limited access to necessary information due to poor internet connections, low power supply, and other essential resources.
Also, the low culture of record-keeping in public bodies, which affect record management and statistics generation, will result in a lack of support to access information.
Regardless of the few constraints, access to information remains a vital tool for citizens to ensure governments are on track. However, necessary steps should be taken among social and political activists to ensure the constraints of accessing information are addressed.