Mohammad Ali Abtahi is an adviser to former Iranian reformer president Mohammad Khatami. He has a fascinating website (and bio) where he explains his belief in using the internet to communicate with the Iranian people. A recent post reveals the importance of increasing transparency in the Iranian government:
Some people visit my ‘Comments’ part of the site and some leave comments. I have to thank all those that have turned that part into a dialogue room. Many of these actually address the system and the officials and I’m the one to reply maybe because I have one day been a statesman, though even those days my web site was a personal one not related to the government, only receiving the officials’ nags and complaints. I said this because all executive departments and their officials have their own web sites, from the leader’s site down to the governors’ offices’. But not all sites have turned into a communication means. They are mostly promotional and are a part of the related offices or organizations’ show-off. Even if they have daily information part they are not that serious in replying to e-mails and the comments.
This is why people cannot get in touch with the government using the easy tool of the Internet. Even if the top-rank authorities are not into internet still can assign some for replying and the following-up of people’s ideas and suggestions so that internet becomes a practical tool and not a luxury show-off. I too could refer my readers to the related officials. Although most of the words and issues that you write to me cannot be said and if these are written to them they would be deleted before becoming problematic for the related official. And this has been and will be the problem of our authorities in the history of Iran. Anyway we have to try to expand the relationship with the country’s management through Internet, e-mail and comment more and more.