Sunday, February 21, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Russia’s Regional Governments Failing to Post Needed Information on Their Websites, Moscow Study Finds

Paul Goble

Vienna, February 21 – The executive branches of all 83 regional governments in the Russian Federation now maintain their own websites, as do all but one of the regional legislatures, but most of them are failing to live up to their promise to make Russian politics and officialdom more open, according to a new study.
The Moscow Institute for the Development of Freedom of Information surveyed the 185 sites that executive and legislative branches in Russia’s regions have set up to determine whether the sites were living up to the provisions of a new federal law that calls for such sites to serve as “the most effective means for the dissemination of official information” about the government.
The institute evaluated the sites according to “300 parameters,” including completeness, timeliness and accessibility and concluded that the sites of the regional executive organs averaged only 32.83 percent, an indication of just how much further the powers that be must go in developing these sites.
(The report is at and . An evaluation is at What makes this report especially useful is that it provides in one place hypertext links to all these sites.)
According to the institute’s researchers, the best regional executive sites are in Khanty-Mansiisk, Rostov, Vologda, Urdmurtia, Voronezh, Karelia, Kamchatka, Murmansk, Krasnoyarsk, and Orenburg, which have openness ratings from a high of 59.26 percent to 47.79 percent, significantly greater than the 33 percent overall average.
The sites at the bottom of the list are in Kostroma, Chechnya, Bashkortostan, the Altay Republic, Tyva, Mari-El, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Daghestan, and Kalmykia, which have openness ratings from a high of 18.7 percent to 12.87 percent, figures far lower than the top sites and the overall average.
The researchers say that the most open regional legislative sites are those maintained in St. Petersburg, Kirov, Tyumen, Khanty-Mansiisk, Samara, Tatarstan, Buryatia, Moscow, Irkutsk, and Khabarovsk, with ratings of 80.86 percent to 59.33 percent, figures rather better than those at the top of the “executive branch” list.
The bottom ten legislative sites -- with the exception of North Ossetia which does not have one -- are also better than the bottom ten executive sites. They include Lipetsk, Mordvinia, Chechnya, Tyva, Volgograd, Chukotka, Pskov, Bryansk, and Nenets, with openness ratings ranging from 25.43 percent to 19.94 percent.
What is most striking about these lists is that there is little overlap between those at the top of the executive and legislative sites or at the bottom. Instead, there are many regions where the one is doing very well and the other is lagging far behind, a pattern that could have an impact on political life in the future.
The Institute for the Development of Freedom of Information has been conducting such surveys since 2004, and its experts say that “in recent times, official sites are becoming more informative, however, on the whole, the situation is changing from year to year in an insignificant way.”
In their view, the institute’s analysts say, “the content of information placed on official sites of government organs only partially corresponds to those demands” placed on such sites by law and to the flow of information between those in power and those they govern necessary for effective political life.
Many of the regional governments and legislatures, the institute concludes, “do not consider the official sites as one of the most effective means of disseminating information about their activity and guaranteeing the access of citizens and organizations to government information resources.”
And the researchers found that while officials “willingly placed general information about the region and about their activities” on the sites, they were far less willing to provide any specifics, thus “sharply lowering the level of openness.” Moreover, the institute concluded there is “a gigantic gap between the quantity of materials on sites and their quality.”

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