Cyberspace challenge

The sunshine is invigorating this week, in more ways than one.
Like many of you, I am thoroughly enjoying the springlike weather and a chance to get outside and enjoy some sun. As a journalist, I am also celebrating Sunshine Week, a national initiative to promote dialogue about the importance of open government and celebrate the freedom of information in our democracy.
Why should that matter to me, you might ask? In the modern age of technology we live in, the concept of openness in governmental affairs, at all levels, has never been more important than it is today. It does matter.
Our government, by design, is intended to be of the people, for the people and by the people. Transparency in what our elected officials are doing on our behalf is critical at all levels, but as we know from recent events in Washington citizens aren’t always told the whole story.
Hillary Clinton has been in the national spotlight for infamously deleting thousands of emails which she said had nothing to do with her job as Secretary of State. The lines have been blurred in that regard, as elected officials from Aurora City Hall to the DC Beltway and everywhere in between utilize email communication regularly for both personal and professional use.
How then are citizens to know if the public’s business is being conducted in cyberspace rather than City Hall? I’ve read some media pundits’ thoughts on this issue and have concluded that Sunshine Week is an opportunity to connect the dots between digital inclusion and the people’s right to know.
Smart phones and email technology have made it incredibly simple for elected officials to do their business off the record if they are so inclined, which undermines the very fabric of our nation’s democracy. It takes diligence and a genuine willingness to comply with the spirit and letter of the law for government to run openly, especially in the digital age.
Nebraska has fairly strong open meetings and public records laws, compared to many other states. We are also fortunate to have local leaders who generally understand those laws, though I’m sure there are times they would prefer NOT to have public discussion about controversial issues of the day.
National Sunshine Week reminds all of us how important it is to enlighten and empower people to play an active role in their government.

Kurt Johnson

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