‘Digital Literacy’ is generally considered essential for making best use of the web. Simply having a smartphone and internet connectivity doesn’t suffice. Organisational ‘wakes’ declare, instead of mourn privacy’s death. Yet both young and old in the web’s public still stress its importance even when they act in ways that go against this. This ‘privacy paradox’ has become necessary to use web services for whom currency is personal data. This problematises the extent to which Internet users actually have a choice especially for universally popular services.
In my recent Web Science research on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) use of the web to build intangible resources, one of which was reputation I found via case study that transparency was also an essential digital literacy skill. What I have hence coined ‘Transparency Digital Literacy’, is the ability to use technology, (in this case the web) to be authentically transparent about activities and relationships in a way that brings personal or organisational gain instead of loss. This builds on existing research in the area. This is important for individuals but also entrepreneurs as the personal and private sphere keep colliding yet intertwining in the virtual and physical public sphere, in ways that consequently necessitate disclosure. With more information available online, the public seeks out and expects to find more information about those with whom they interact. This includes information not just about organisations but also about the individuals behind them.
There has also been a move towards more open government and open data, terms which should always be distinguished from each other even though both can potentially increase transparency. However, the public still needs to be able to access and understand the data in a way that relates to their needs and within context for it to truly be effective. It follows that organisations and individuals, even those with the very best intentions need not only digital transparency skills but also to be cognisant of how to respond to real-time immediate undesirable effects. This may occur because such online literacy is still contextual, nascent and evolving.
Businesses have been historically reluctant to share information about their operations, in their quest to maintain competitive advantage. Governments also tend to be closeted despite the existence of democratic process. However, with the dramatic rise in information and data at our disposal more information is being accessed about those businesses and governments we want to learn about. This information also comes from unassociated individuals and organisations. Information and data are therefore shared not only by us but by others unknown to us. This provokes much need for thought, around the issue of ‘digital transparency literacy’. It begs answers to the question: How does an individual or organisation best respond in a digital transparency literate way to this new online environment defined by rapid, mobile, information communication?
Organisations can also manipulate data under transparency’s guise, yet as the possibility for information leakage increases with the web even in the face of terrible, untenable penalty, the ability to understand how to be authentically transparent online can be increasingly studied. It takes years to build a reputation and in today’s hyper-connected world just a second to ruin it. This consideration alone provides sufficient incentive to call for better understanding of how digital transparency literacy skills can be better developed to support both the private and the public good. That is… unless you attempt to opt out of the web for good. This however is becoming increasingly difficult to do. At best doing so may leave you unaccounted for in data-based decision making which affect you and at worst you may very well need transparency digital literacy skills to adjust your public online personal social score in the not too distant future.
(Source: Image 1 – Open Source.com)