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Dear Prime Minister, Please increase the ambition of the UK’s open government commitments

Jonathan Gray - October 8, 2013 in Open Data, Open Government Data

The Open Knowledge Foundation is part of a group of civil society organisations behind an open letter to the UK Prime Minister urging him to increase the ambition of the UK’s open government commitments in the run up to the Open Government Partnership Summit in London later this month.

This isn’t just about the UK. The UK has an opportunity to take leadership in a number of key areas – such as beneficial ownership and financial transparency – which will affect developments in many other countries around the world.

Our letter is reproduced in full below.

An open letter to the Prime Minister on the UK’s open government commitments

Rt Hon David Cameron MP
10 Downing Street
London
SW1A 2AA

Cc: The Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP (Deputy Prime Minister),
Rt Hon Francis Maude MP (Minister for the Cabinet Office),
Nick Hurd MP (Minister for Civil Society)

8 October 2013

Dear Prime Minister,

The end of October is a critical moment for open government in the UK and beyond. The UK will publish its second open government National Action Plan, host the Open Government Partnership Annual Summit, and hand over the baton of chairing the OGP. We hope that the Government will mark this important occasion by announcing a series of ambitious commitments towards greater openness, building on the leadership shown at the G8 Summit.

We welcome the emphasis that you have placed on the principles of open government both domestically and internationally and your ambition of becoming ‘the most open and transparent government in the world’. The true strength of your Government’s efforts will ultimately be judged by the level of new ambition in the commitments made and delivered through the action plan launched on 31 October at the Summit in London.

For the UK Plan, while progress has been made in finding common ground on a number of important issues, we are concerned by the absence of any truly ambitious new commitments. With three weeks to go, we call on you to take a lead in delivering such commitments:

  1. Make public who owns and controls companies and trusts, by publishing a beneficial ownership register that meets the standards set out in the Open Data Charter. A public register would support good corporate governance and a clean and respected business environment, as well as lift the veil of secrecy that the corrupt and the criminal use to hide their identity.

  2. Enable public scrutiny of all organisations in receipt of public money, by opening up public sector contracts and extending transparency standards and legislation. Endorse and implement a system of ‘Open Contracting’, ensuring public disclosure and monitoring of contracting from procurement to the close of projects, and amend the Freedom of Information Act so that all information held by a contractor in connection with a public service contract is brought within its scope.

  3. Bring lobbying out into the open in the UK, by developing a robust, compulsory register of lobbyists. An open and comprehensive register would allow public scrutiny of who is lobbying whom, what they are seeking to influence and how much is being spent in the process.

Ambitious commitments such as these will not only send a clear message about the UK’s commitment to open government at home, but will lead by example and demonstrate the level of ambition expected of other countries as they draft their own national action plans.

Yours sincerely,

Alexandra Runswick, Director, Unlock Democracy
Anne Thurston, Director, International Records Management Trust
Anthony Zacharzewski, Director, The Democratic Society
Cathy James, Chief Executive, Public Concern at Work
Chris Bain, Director, CAFOD
Chris Taggart, Co-founder & CEO, Open Corporates
Claire Schouten, Programme Director, Integrity Action
David Hall-Matthews, Managing Director, Publish What You Fund
Emily Gerrard, Director, Development Research and Training UK
Gavin Hayman, Director of Campaigns, Global Witness
Javier Ruiz, Campaigner, Open Rights Group
Dr Laura James, CEO, Open Knowledge Foundation
Maurice Frankel, Director, Campaign for Freedom of Information
Miles Litvinoff, Coordinator, Publish What You Pay UK
Richard Murphy, Director, Tax Research
Simon Burall, Director, Involve
Tamasin Cave, Director, Spinwatch
Tim Davies, Director, Practical Participation

Global Open Data Initiative moving forward

Christian Villum - October 4, 2013 in Featured, Open Government Data, Uncategorized

(This is a cross-post from the Global Open Data Initiative blog.)

The Global Open Data Initiative is a coalition of civil society organisations working together in the area of open government data and open government.

Our basic goal is that citizens will have full and open access to the government data that is needed in order to build effective government and governance.

The Global Open Data Initiative will serve as a guiding voice internationally on open data issues. Civil society groups who focus on open data have often been isolated to single national contexts, despite the similar challenges and opportunities repeating themselves in countries across the globe. The Global Open Data Initiative aims to help share valuable resources, guidance and judgment, and to clarify the potential for government open data across the world.

Provide a leading vision for how governments approach open data. Open data commitments are among the most popular commitments for countries participating in the Open Government Partnership. The Global Open Data Initiative recommendations and resources will help guide open data initiatives and others as they seek to design and implement strong, effective open data initiatives and policies. Global Open Data Initiative resources will also help civil society actors who will be evaluating government initiatives.

Increase awareness of open data. Global Open Data Initiative will work to advance the understanding of open data issues, challenges, and resources by promoting best practices, engaging in online and offline dialogue, and supporting networking between organizations both new and familiar to the open data arena.

Support the development of the global open data community especially in civil society. Civil society organizations (CSOs) have a key role to play as suppliers, intermediaries, and users of open data, though at present, relatively few organizations are engaging with open data and the opportunities it presents. Most CSOs lack the awareness, skills and support needed to be active users and providers of open data in ways that can help them meet their goals. The Global Open Data Initiative aims to help CSOs, to engage with and use open data whether whatever area they work on – be it climate change, democratic rights, land governance or financial reform.

Our immediate focus is on two activities:

  1. To consult with members of the CSO community around the world about what they think is important in this area
  2. Develop a set of principles in collaboration with the CSO community to guide open government data policies and approaches and to help initiate, strengthen and further elevate conversations between governments and civil society.

Watch this space for further updates.

Join the conversation

To get involved join the Global Open Data Initiative discussion group:


Visit this group

Next Steps on “Follow the Money” – from OKCon to the Open Government Partnership Summit

Jonathan Gray - October 4, 2013 in OKCon, Open Data, Open Government Data, Public Money

The following post is from Alan Hudson, Policy Director (Transparency & Accountability) at ONE and Jonathan Gray, Director of Policy and Ideas at the Open Knowledge Foundation.

Last month we announced the Open Knowledge Foundation and ONE’s plans to support and strengthen the community of activists and advocacy organisations working to enable citizens to follow the money and hold decision-makers to account for the use of public money.

A few weeks ago at OKCon 2013 we had a brainstorming session with a group of leading financial transparency and open data organisations to define next steps for the collaboration.

We had an excellent turnout including many of the key organisations promoting financial transparency such as Development Initiatives, Publish What You Fund, Publish What You Pay, the Revenue Watch Institute, the Sunlight Foundation, the Transparency and Accountability Initiative, and Transparency International.

Participants in the session shared their experience of trying to follow the money – the challenges and opportunities – and explored how we might collectively join the dots between various efforts to promote transparency. We talked about creating better data standards so information is easier to connect and compare, sharing resources and information about the flow of public money, and how to ensure that transparency initiatives meet the needs of campaigners pushing for change.

The top two priorities identified were as follows. First, mapping the ‘Follow the Money’ space to get a better sense of who is doing what to follow flows of public money from revenue to results, across different sectors and in different countries around the world. Second, doing much more to understand what citizens and civil society organisations need to help them to follow the money and collecting use-cases of how joining the transparency dots will help.

We’re currently planning ‘Follow the Money’ activities around the Open Government Partnership Summit in London on 31st October to 1st November, where we will continue the conversation – in particular focusing on the needs of campaigners in developing countries.

If you or your organisation are interested in joining us to Follow the Money, you can get in touch via the following form.

Open Data developments in Asia

Guest - October 3, 2013 in Open Government Data, Open Knowledge Foundation Local Groups

The following guest post is by Waltraut Ritter, a member of Opendata Hong Kong, the Open Knowledge Foundation’s Local Group. It is the first of two posts exploring the current state of open data in Asia.

Hong Kong Panoramic

The Open Knowledge Conference in Geneva attracted delegates from 55 countries, indicating that open, public data is indeed becoming a global movement around the world.

How is Open Data adopted in Asia, the largest continent of this planet where 60 per cent of the world’s population live?

Asia has some of the most advanced internet economies, as well as some of the least developed countries with hardly any access to information or information infrastructure, neither analogue nor digital.

At OKCon, 26 participants from 11 Asian countries were present, including Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Russia. In this blog, I focus on selected East Asian and Pacific countries: New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea (North Asian and Pacific nations); and Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar (South-East Asian nations). Getting reliable data from all 49 Asian countries would require much more research, and these countries are grouped together in the Worldbank Knowledge Economy Index.

Myanmar river life

Despite being grouped together in the Worldbank Knowledge Economy Index (KEI), these countries have vastly different economic rankings. New Zealand achieved the highest Knowledge Economy score, closely followed by Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan, whereas Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar score lowest in all KEI categories (ICT, education, economic incentive and institutional regime, innovation). Other key indicators relevant for Open Data development are the Corruption Perception Index (Transparency International), the World Internet Statistics and the Democracy Index (EIU) as a measure for general governance and functioning of government.

According to the 2012 World Internet Statistics, the overall internet penetration in Asia is only 27.5 per cent, but this still means the Asian continent is home to more users than any other, with over 1 billion. Internet penetration across the listed countries ranges from 1 per cent in Myanmar to 88 per cent in New Zealand; again with a wide gap between North and South East Asia (except for Singapore with 75 per cent).

Vietnam i  Camboya 2007

South East Asia has often been described as “information black hole” in scholarly research on national information strategies, with many governments restricting or denying access to information to their citizens, often based on the assumption that government information by default is a secret. Earlier this month, the government of Vietnam enacted the “Decree 72” which limits the use of blogs and social media to “providing or exchanging personal information”, and prohibits them from being used to disseminate news or even information from government sites. The law also bans content which could be “harmful” to national security or which opposes the government. This kind of restriction is based on the perception that governments own the information and can control its use, and that information-empowered citizens and businesses are potentially dangerous.

While North Asian countries, as well as New Zealand and Australia, mostly have Freedom of Information (FOI) laws in place (with the exception of Hong Kong); in South East Asia, FOI laws are more the exception than the rule. Even in the otherwise highly developed information economy of Singapore, there are many areas where the government argues that information needs to be kept confidential in the public interest, which explains why citizens cannot access and analyse data related to the size of assets in the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC), a sovereign wealth fund owned by the Government of Singapore.

Singapore

Sometimes laws are in place, but they are not fully applied. In Thailand, the country’s Official Information Act (OIA) was enacted in 1997, but “the concept of freedom of information is totally new to both Thai state officials and to the people. Thai society thus needs some time to learn more about the Information Law. State officials have to understand the procedures of law enforcement better so that they know how to provide information services and disclose information to meet public requests. Meanwhile, people should recognize their right to know and know how to utilize the Information Act as a means of access to state information. Thai society should recognize information law as an essential part of establishing accountable and transparent government and as a crucial part of eventually building up civil society” (Quote by N. Seriak, Office of Official Information Commission). In 2000, the law was therefore amended to include strategic guidelines on how to promote and develop the acknowledgement of the Act’s content, its utilization, the mechanism and the procedures to utilize the Act to meet people’s right to access information. This example illustrates that the idea of open information also requires a new way of thinking about information, both for government officials and citizens.

New Zealand Beach

Only 4 of the listed 15 countries are full democracies according to the EIU index – New Zealand, Australia, Japan and South Korea; they are also members of the OECD. The majority of countries in Asia fall into the categories of “flawed” democracies (Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia), Singapore is a “hybrid system” and at the bottom are authoritarian governments such as Vietnam, Laos (lowest overall score) and Myanmar, which is now currently moving into another phase of political governance. In August this year, Myanmar officially ended censorship, thereby jumping up to 151st out of 179 countries in the World Press Freedom index.

There are few economic studies about the tangible and intangible value of open information, perhaps because the causality is not directly measurable, most of the time. On the other hand, it might be easier to analyse examples on the cost of non-open data, in hindsight of events where data was not available.

This will be the topic of the 2nd part of this blog on Open Data Developments in Asia.

Images: Hong Kong Panoramic by Francisco Martins, CC-BY-NC; Myanmar river life by eGuide Travel, CC-BY; Vietnam y Camboya by Carles Company Soler, CC-BY-SA; Singapore by Arian Zwegers, CC-BY; New Zealand Beach by Abaconda, CC-BY-SA

Open Assets in Argentina

Guest - September 30, 2013 in Data Journalism, Featured Project, Open Government Data

The following guest post is by Florencia Coelho, from Argentinian daily La Nacion.

In Argentina, where a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has yet to be signed, LA NACION and three transparency NGOs – Poder Ciudadano, ACIJ (Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia) and Fundación Directorio Legislativo joined efforts to produce the first site to open information on the assets of public servants, making their asset declarations available online.

The first stage of the web site contains more than 600 asset declarations from public servants from each of the three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial. Priority was given to data on key positions within each branch as well as data on candidates in the upcoming October 2013 legislative elections.

Each NGO specialized in monitoring transparency and accountability of certain branches, presenting the necessary public information requests and processing the data received.

The information requested was received in print copies; therefore, in addition to entering the data, the teams also scanned the original requests, erasing any sensitive personal information before uploading them to DocumentCloud where they are linked to each asset declaration on the web site.

Teams collaborated with more than 30 volunteers who manually entered the data and cross checked every unit of content in a marathon six-day “check-a-thon”. Throughout the project cycle, the teams worked online using collaborative tools like Google Docs, Google Spreadsheets and Trello.

The database and the web site were designed and developed by LA NACION data and multimedia teams from Lanacion.com. Our Knight Mozilla Opennews fellow collaborated in optimizing the application and search tools. This news application, now in beta, will open data in machine readable formats for everyone to reuse.

The Open Asset Declarations website is being launched in a particular political context. A new law was recently passed which omits asset information on public officials´ spouses and children, thereby reducing the content previously available. Family asset information is vital to depict an accurate picture of the public officials´ wealth and key to any investigation on illicit enrichment.

IMG_0150

A “Check-a-thon” last week, comparing paper originals of statements with spreadsheet versions*

Open Data Training at the Open Knowledge Foundation

Laura James - September 26, 2013 in Business, CKAN, Featured, Open Data, Open Government Data, Open Knowledge Foundation, Our Work, School of Data, Technical, Training

We’re delighted to announce today the launch of a new portfolio of open data training programs.

For many years the Open Knowledge Foundation has been working — both formally and informally — with governments, civil society organisations and others to provide this kind of advice and training. Today marks the first time we’ve brought it all together in one place with a clear structure.

These training programs are designed for two main groups of people interested in open data:

  1. Those within government and other organisations seeking a short introduction to open data – what it is, why to “do” open data, what the challenges are, and how to get started with an open data project or policy.

  2. The growing group of those specialising in open data, perhaps as policy experts, open data program managers, technology specialists, and so on, generally within government or other organisations. Here we offer more in-depth training including detailed material on how to run an open data program or project, and also a technical course for those deploying or maintaining open data portals.

Our training programs are designed and delivered by our team of open data experts with many years of experience creating, maintaining and supporting open data projects around the world.

Please contact us for details on any of the these courses, or if you’d be interested in discussing a custom program tailored to your needs.

Our Open Data Training Programs

Open Data Introduction

Who is this for?

This course is a short introduction to open data for anyone and is perfectly suited to teams from diverse functions across organisations who are thinking about or adopting open data for the first time.

Topics covered

Everything you need to understand and start working in this exciting new area: what is open data, why should institutions open data, what are the benefits and opportunities to doing so, and of course how you can get started with an open data policy or project.

This is a one day course to help you and your team get started with open data.

Photo by Victor1558

Administrative Open Data Management

Who is this for?

Those specialising in open data, whether as policy experts, open data program managers and similar roles in government, civil service, and other organisations. This course is specifically for non-technical staff who are responsible for managing Open Data programs in their organisation. Such activities typically include implementing an Open Data strategy, designing/launching an Open Data portal, coordinating publication processes, preparing data for publication, and fostering data re-use.

Topics covered

Basics of Open Data (legal, managerial, technical); Success factors for the design and execution of an Open Data program; Overview of the technology landscape; Success factors for community re-use.

Open Data Portal Technology

Who is this for?

Those specializing in open data, whether as software or data experts, and open data delivery managers and similar roles in government, civil service, and other organisations. Technical staff who are responsible for maintaining or running an enterprise Open Data portal. Such activities typically include deployment, system administration and hosting, site theming, development of custom extensions and applications, ETL procedures, data conversions, data life-cycle management.

Topics covered

Basics of Open Data, publication process, and technology landscape; architecture and core functionality of a modern Open Data Management System (CKAN used as example). Deployment, administration and customisation; deploying extensions; integration; geospatial and other special capabilities; engaging with the CKAN community.

Photo by Victor1558

Custom training

We can offer training programs tailored to your specific needs, for your organisation, data domain, or locale. Get in touch today to discuss your requirements!

Working with data

We also run the School of Data, which helps civil society organisations, journalists and citizens learn the skills they need to use data effectively, through both online and in-person “learning through doing” workshops. The School of Data runs data-driven investigations and explorations, and data clinics and workshops from “What is Data” up to advanced visualisation and data handling. As well as general training and materials, we offer topic-specific and custom courses and workshops. Please contact schoolofdata@okfn.org to find out more.

As with all of our work, all relevant materials will be openly licensed, and we encourage others (in the global Open Knowledge Foundation network and beyond) to use and build on them.

Register now for the OGP Summit and Civil Society Day

Theodora Middleton - September 25, 2013 in Events, Open Government Data

This October, the Open Government Partnership Annual Summit is coming to London. We’re helping to organise the Civil Society Day, which will take place on the 30th October at University of London Union, followed on the 31st October and the 1st November by the main conference.

IMG_8018

The draft agendas for both the main Summit and the Civil Society Day are now online. You are invited to attend both. Civil Society Day will focus on the conversations we need to have as civil society members amongst ourselves in order to prepare for the Summit and strengthen the national OGP processes down the line. The programme combines space for side-conversations at the unconference (the bit that we’re organising!), with sessions around the pressing topics we need to discuss as a community plus additional space for topics that push the boundaries of open government.

The aim is for this to be quite informal with lots of open space for discussion and sessions including:

  • What can civil society do to push ambition on open government?
  • What’s next for open government data and open government?
  • Small group conversations about challenges and what can be learnt from other initiatives like EITI, IATI and the like
  • Workshops and data expeditions
  • Space for individual communities groups to meet, share and plan

The expression of interest for joining the OGP Summit and the Civil Society Day closes this Friday 27 September. Those who have registered will have priority in joining the Summit. There are 400-500 places for non-government actors, which may sound like a lot but with 60 member countries and more to follow it will fill up fast! Register now to make sure you can be there.

Annual OGP Civil Society Survey online

Civil society actors have also been invited to fill in the OGP Civil Society Survey 2013 (available in English and Spanish). The Survey is a temperature check of engagement with OGP, and the health of the initiative as a whole. Responses will help provide a snapshot of the OGP players, and insights into year 2 experiences at the national level. It will also provide the information needed to improve communications within the OGP community and to figure out what is needed to make OGP a success.

The results will be announced at the OGP Civil Society Day.

Hope to see lots of you there!

New partnership to bring open data to developing countries

Open Knowledge - September 18, 2013 in Featured, News, OKF Projects, Open Development, Open Government Data

We are really excited to announce a new partnership between us, the World Bank and the ODI, which was announced at OKCon in Geneva today. This important joint venture aims to bring open data projects and engagement to developing countries. Here’s the press release.

ok1

Left to right: Laura James and Rufus Pollock, the Open Knowledge Foundation; Amparo Ballivan, World Bank; Jeni Tennison from UK ODI; and Edward Anderson, World Bank.

The World Bank has joined forces with the Open Data Institute and the Open Knowledge Foundation in a 3-year project designed to help policy makers and citizens in developing countries understand and exploit the benefits of open data.

The project, launched today at the Open Knowledge Conference in Geneva, has three objectives: supporting developing countries to plan, execute and run open data initiatives; increasing the use of open data in developing countries; and growing the evidence-base on the impact of open data for development.

Amparo Ballivian, Lead Economist at the World Bank said: “Open data has already brought extraordinary benefits to people in rich countries, helping them to understand and improve the world around them. This project will take the benefits of open data to the developing world. It will explore and extend the frontiers of open data and harness its benefits for poverty reduction.”

The project will include scoping the state of open data; assessing the readiness of countries to open up – and use – their data; training government officials, other policy makers, and civil society; undertaking research and producing guidelines on the best use of open data; and producing case studies of impact. At this stage all developing countries have an equal chance of participating.

Gavin Starks, CEO of the ODI said: “Open data drives economic growth and spurs innovation, unlocking previously unforeseen benefits for everyday citizens and for society as a whole. This project will enable more countries and citizens to discover solutions to their most pressing challenges. Our partnership with the World Bank and the Open Knowledge Foundation opens up almost limitless possibilities: to share, collaborate and generate value from open data at a global scale. Plus, it aligns entirely with the ODI’s aim to expand into new countries and sectors.”

With an initial budget of $1.25m in year one, the three founding organisations are looking for other partners to join them on the project. Interested parties should contact the ODI or Open Knowledge Foundation to find out more.

Laura James, CEO of the Open Knowledge Foundation: “Making government, scientific and other data accessible and usable drives positive change across the spectrum: from health to transport, education to entrepreneurship, culture to community. This project will give citizens in developing countries the knowledge they need to campaign for change, and empower them to their hold their governments to account.”

Ends

Video of the announcement

For the release as it was mailed out, see here

What’s the point of open data?

Martin Tisne - September 17, 2013 in Access to Information, Open Data, Open Government Data

I’ve been puzzling for a while how the open data community can help the many great groups that have been fighting for transparency of key money flows for the past decade and more. I think one answer may be that open data helps us go beyond simply making information available. If done well, it can help us make it accessible and relevant to people, which has been the holy grail for transparency advocates for a long time.

The transparency community has focused too much on just getting information out there (making information available). But what’s the point of having information available if it’s not accessible? What’s the use of public reports that are only nominally ‘public’ because they languish in filing cabinets or ‘PDF deserts’ hidden within an obscure website?

If we can get this information more accessible, we can then work to increase participation and help people use it. This for me is what open data people are talking about when they talk about open formats. Machine readability and open formats matter because they are tools to increase access. I’ve seen too many techies talk about ‘open formats’ and activists’ eyes glaze over. But I think we’re both talking about the same thing we hold dear: improving access to vital data for all.

Likewise, it’s the connections between the datasets that are powerful and interesting. You may not care so much to know where most people under 15 years old live in your country, but if you’re told that those that live close to a nuclear waste disposal site happen to have the highest cancer rates, then it becomes seriously relevant. Same as above, techies often talk about technical data standards and get quizzical/skeptical – at best – looks in exchange. But technical data standards are the fuel that allows policy wonks to compare datasets, which creates relevant data. Connecting the dots makes it policy relevant – without data, you can’t make policy.

[availability of data] => [accessibility of data] => [comparability of data]

[availability of data] => [open formats] => [data standards]

Follow the Money groups do amazing work: extractives’ transparency advocates campaigning for vital releases of information on oil, gas, mining revenues into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Groups looking at curbing illicit flows of funds out of desperately poor countries via shell companies and phantom firms. Activists who scrutinize budgets, everything from big ticket national budget allocations, all the way down to very local issues like your local school spending on basic reading materials. And many more.

Together, these groups share one big thing in common – they are all seeking to follow the money. In other words, they are all trying to understand how money either gets in to government coffers, or how it fails to get there, and then how and whether it is spent for the good of the many, rather than the few lining their pockets.

To succeed, we all need data that’s not only public (e.g. public registries of beneficial ownership) but also accessible (in open formats) and comparable to other money flows.

Let’s work together to make it happen.

The following guest post from Martin Tisné was first published on his personal blog.

If you’re at OKCon 2013 and interested in joining the Open Knowledge Foundation and ONE to follow the money, you can come to our session on this topic at OKCon 2013 in Geneva, on Wednesday 18th September, 10:30-11:30 in Room 8, Floor 2 at the Centre International de Conférences Genève – CICG). Due to limited space, if you’re interested in joining us please email followthemoney@okcon.org.

OKCon 2013 Guest Post: Which bar to raise?

Guest - September 11, 2013 in OKCon, Open Government Data

The following post is by Paul Maassen, who together with Daniel Dietrich and Anders Pedersen will be coordinating the workshop ‘Raising the bar for ambition and quality in OGP: workshop to develop a ‘Civil Society National OGP Review’, to be held on Tuesday 17 September, 14:45 – 16:00 @ Room 5, Floor 3, as part of the Open Data, Government and Governance track at OKCon. Get in touch with them to book your place!


When asked what makes the Open Government Partnership model different I always mention 3 elements: the guaranteed seat at the table for civil society; the concrete, ambitious commitments made, and the independent monitoring of the process and promises.

Two years after the OGP was launched at the UN General Assembly the first set of independent reports are being released. That brings the first cycle for the founding countries to a close. The last 12 months reformers in close to 60 countries have experimented with the OGP process, testing it out as a new tool to deliver change and get more transparency, more accountability and more participation.

Image: Open Development Technology Alliance

Image: Open Development Technology Alliance

Not surprisingly civil society across the globe has been watching OGP closely. Embracing the idea of creating space for reformers, but critically vocal on all three key elements, as well as the criteria to get into the partnership. In ultra short summary: the eligibility threshold is too low with too little criteria; the commitments are not ambitious and the consultations not inclusive and ‘real’ enough. All okay to an extent for the ‘test drive’ of the first action plan cycle, but not for the second round.

The team working on the independent reports (IRM team) have worked hard the last couple of months to get their methodology right, find the best researchers, balance the interest of government and civil society. This week the very first report – on South Africa – will be published and the coming weeks 7 more will follow. Hopefully the reports will bring about a dialogue on key learnings, rather than serve as a simple scorecard to praise or denounce national efforts. Solid thinking and resources have been put into this exercise and the reports should push the reviewed countries in the right direction and create fresh energy.

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