Transparency and accountability in the ‘age of information’

Date & time
1–2pm Wednesday 5 August 2020

Phillipa Weeks Staff Library / Zoom

Associate Professor Jolyon Ford
Research Office
ANU College of Law Research Seminar

Part of the ANU College of Law Research Seminar Series 2020 series

Transparency and accountability in the ‘age of information’

‘Transparency’ and ‘accountability’ are much-touted values and/or processes of this ‘information age’. We erect mandatory reporting schemes – from environmental impact to corporate governance to workplace gender quotas to child safety – on the premise that these might engender internal organisational behavioural change and, externally, facilitate both transparency and accountability.

In this seminar, Dr Jolyon Ford explores some design assumptions behind the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cwth), Australia’s new non-punitive yet mandatory corporate reporting scheme on human rights risks in supply chains. Ford argues that schemes requiring the production of even more information into our data-saturated ‘audit society’ (Power 1999) – and associated rituals of verification – will not necessarily enable better decision-making, insight or oversight by external stakeholders. Ford argues that reporting may deliver a transparency paradox (too much information of doubtful utility) or transparency trap (reportees engage in narrow compliance-think, rather than solving problems) or transparency displacement (a scheme creates false reassurance and momentum for ‘truer’ transparency falls away). Ford will discuss his research agenda around how we conceptualise ‘transparency’ and ‘accountability’, how these relate to each other and to another concept (‘responsibility’), and under what conditions information-based schemes (mere reporting) might potentially help realise those values.


  • Associate Professor Jolyon Ford »

    Associate Professor Jolyon Ford re-joined the ANU as an Associate Professor in July 2015 from the UK, where he was an Associate Fellow of the Royal Institute for International Affairs, London (Chatham House) and a Research Associate of the Global Economic Governance programme at the University of Oxford's Blavatnik School of Government.




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