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What Does Transparency Mean? 

Transparency is the degree to which something is clear. In the context of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), the term describes the need for clarity about how information is created, processed, managed, transmitted, stored, and shared. 


Transparency helps stakeholders identify potential bottlenecks and areas for improvement. It also helps ensure accountability. When information workflows and decision-making processes are transparent, it becomes easier for stakeholders to locate the root cause of a problem and identify who is responsible for correcting it.

Essentially, transparency encourages trust and discourages corruption, waste, and abuse of power by creating a system of checks and balances. It makes it difficult for individuals and organizations to engage in corrupt practices unnoticed and creates a strong foundation for ethical behavior, collaboration, and responsible decision-making.


The need for ICT systems to be transparent is growing as compliance regulations around data protection, data privacy, and artificial intelligence (AI) become more stringent. 

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) regulation enacted by the European Union (EU), for example, requires organizations to be candid about how they collect, process, and store personal data. 

To ensure the human-centric and ethical development of explainable AI (XAI) Artificial in Europe, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) endorsed new rules for AI systems by passing the EU AI Act and the Digital Services Act. The EU AI Act requires that AI-based systems be transparent in their functioning so that users can understand how decisions are taken and the logic behind them. The Digital Services Act requires Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs) and Very Large Online Search Engines (VLOSEs) with more than 45 million monthly active users in the EU to publish annual transparency reports.

AI transparency is especially important because of the way AI systems can potentially impact society. Unlike traditional software applications, which use if/then rules to make decisions, the logic an AI system uses to make a decision can be very complex and not easily understood by humans. 

Without transparency, when an AI system makes an incorrect or ethically questionable decision, it can be impossible to pinpoint where the error occurred and who should be held accountable. 

Challenges and Advantages

While ICT transparency promotes trust, accountability, data-driven decision-making, and ethical behavior, achieving and maintaining a culture of transparency often requires a considerable amount of technical and legal expertise, time, and money. 

In large organizations, it can be challenging to build and maintain a culture that minimizes data silos and information turf-guarding and ensures all stakeholders have access to the information they need to do their jobs and make good decisions. 

It can require management to make strategic financial investments in robust data governance and data management systems and hire knowledgeable staff capable of navigating the complex and ever-changing requirements for transparency in regional laws and nation-state legislation. 

It is not always easy to strike the right balance between the need for transparency and the need to protect intellectual property, but when it’s done right, all stakeholders will have a clear understanding of their organization’s transparency goals, expectations, and strategies for success. 

This often has the added benefit of making them feel more connected to the organization and its mission, which in turn can create a positive feedback loop that leads to increased job satisfaction and additional motivation for valuing transparency.

Who Is Responsible for Transparency?

Everyone involved in an organization, irrespective of their role or position, is responsible for transparency. 

C-suite executives and board members are tasked with setting the tone at the top by fostering a culture of openness within the organization. They are responsible for building a corporate governance structure that supports transparency and ensures that critical information is shared in a timely and accurate manner with all authorized stakeholders. 

Managers and supervisors also carry significant responsibility for nurturing and maintaining transparency within the teams they manage. They need to make sure that team members have the necessary information to perform their jobs effectively, promote open communication, and discourage information hoarding.

Employees, in turn, are responsible for raising concerns when they encounter information silos or poorly documented technology that could negatively affect the organization’s performance or reputation. 

When an organization’s entire culture values transparency, it builds a foundation of trust and integrity in data-driven operations and makes navigating the complex regulatory compliance landscape easier.

Areas of Concern

Compliance and the need for transparency in business sectors, like finance and healthcare, have inspired renewed attention to the need for transparency in a wide range of ICT concerns. They include:


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.