Opening up the government: a comparative analysis of transparency policies in Estonia, the United States and Sweden

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All over the world countries are adopting transparency policies. Government transparency is seen as more and more important. Besides, it is seen as essential to a democracy, but all countries develop different policies to ensure that transparency. These policies are covered in freedom of information laws (FOI-laws). This cross-national case study examines the differences and similarities between transparency policies, researching the FOI-laws of Estonia, Sweden, and the United States. The policies are compared on different elements: release of information on request, affirmative publication of information and whistle-blowing. The results of this comparison were that there are differences in the coverage and whistle-blowing protection. But also several similarities were found, for example in the ease of access and the presence of exemptions. Besides, there is found that Estonia has the most progressive transparency policy. These differences and similarities found are explained by three different concepts that are part of the advocacy coalition framework: path dependency, policy transfer, and advocacy coalitions. Path dependency and coalitions were expected to explain differences in the cases, while policy transfer was expected to explain similarities. It is found that all three cases can be explained mainly by a different concept. Sweden stands out in path dependency. Estonia looked at Sweden when developing their policy and thus can be explained by policy transfer, and more specifically by Europeanisation. In contrast, the policy in the United States is largely determined by advocacy coalitions.
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