MIAMI (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates credited the Internet on Friday with making “phenomenal” inroads in beefing up government transparency, saying cabinet ministers in Scandinavia now keep little, if anything, private.
“The Nordic countries, with Sweden and Denmark, have really taken it to an amazing level,” Gates told a conference on Latin American government, ahead of an annual Inter-American Development Bank meeting in Miami.
“Whenever a (Nordic cabinet) minister goes out to lunch, you can see how much he spent for lunch and how much on the cab. It literally goes up (on the Internet) within a few hours,” he said.
He was referring to detailed postings tracking daily business on government Web sites, which include everything from cabinet ministers’ calendars to budgets and real-time accounts of the bidding for lucrative government contracts.
“Every bid that’s ever done, the bidders come up on the networks, you see the terms they offer,” said Gates, still referring to the new, Web-savvy operating procedures in places like Sweden.
“It’s a very open, transparent bidding process,” he said, adding that the “things about government that really count” were now accessible to anyone with a personal computer.
“There’s still a lot that can be done there,” Gates said. He credited Nordic countries with ensuring, however, that virtually all key government information was now posted online for viewing by the general public.
“I think it’s been phenomenal. I think the quality of governance has improved, and can improve a lot more, because of that Internet transparency,” said Gates.
He said a lot of government data are also available in the United States online, but they are often too complicated by jargon and difficult to navigate through for most users.
“This is one where the Nordic countries are the best .... We’re not the model for that particular effort,” said Gates.
Gates is due to leave his day-to-day functions at Microsoft and dedicate himself to the philanthropic efforts of the Gates Foundation in June.
Reporting by Tom Brown, editing by Jim Loney, Richard Chang