CHEN CHUANFU: Enhancing authority of public information

By / 01-22-2015 / (Chinese Social Sciences Today)

Sufficient access to information is the basis of public life and social management, as well as one of the essential conditions for rule by law. Authoritative information in aspects such as meteorology, traffic, employment, environment and food is indispensable in daily life. Usually, such information is provided by information channels of public institutions, including government sectors.

With information technology rapidly evolving, networks, microblogs, WeChat and text messaging have become social information channels. According to statistics, currently there are more than 1.2 billion microbloggers nationwide and more than 500 million WeChat users, more than 100 million of whom are overseas. The new technological environment is changing the way people access information, resulting in lowered status of traditional information channels of public institutions. Meanwhile, fast and convenient networks are impacting former management styles of public information.

Social information channels, which are characterized by their low cost and high flexibility in transmitting information, are competing with public institutions in attracting receivers. Government sectors are usually left behind social information channels to report information on people’s livelihood including public health, environment, education and security. They need more time and procedures to study such information.

With more people and social organizations collecting and disseminating information, public institutions’ capacity to address and identify mass information has been increasingly challenged. Information conveyed to the public is usually inconsistent due to poor coordination. Meanwhile, effective communication can’t be achieved without sufficient and timely public information. Society has to pay dearly to clarify facts and restore the truth.

It is a social responsibility to promote authority of public information. Here are some suggestions.
Firstly, public information management should serve public needs. Public institutions should actively release information in accordance with social demands, intensify interpretation of governmental information, and promote deep development and wide dissemination of public information.


Secondly, public institutions may act as a mediator in social information channels. Public institutions establish, collect and address all types of information daily. They should give full play to their own professional advantages and participate in and utilize social information channels, serving as a mediator of the network world.

Thirdly, independent construction of public media should be enhanced. One reason for declining authority of public information is the lack of reliable information sources. A large amount of information is reprinted from international media, the Internet and social media to increase audience share. Public institutions rely on reprinting so much that information quality can’t be ensured. Strengthening the construction of original capacity is the only way to promote the authority of public information.

Fourthly, a permanent preservation system of public information should be established.  Nowadays, there is significant digitized government information, such as paperless office documents and multimedia content. Digital information is more fragile than hard-copy information. The government should act as information guardians and take measures to ensure long-term preservation and permanent availability of valuable information.


Chen Chuanfu is a professor from the School of Information Management at Wuhan University.