“Open” has become one of the biggest buzzwords in governance. But what does openness really mean? And does it mean the same thing to governments, civil society groups, the media, and the private sector?
As part of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) — Deputy Director Andrew Wilson serves as co-chair of the Council for Engaging the Private Sector — CIPE is also interested in the answer to this question. OGP is a multinational partnership, currently made up of 63 countries and a number of civil society organizations, that aims to make government more transparent, more accountable, and more responsive to citizens.
One way that governments have tried to become more open is through open data — making data about government operations such as budgets, spending, and voting freely available for anyone to use.
But simply releasing some data does not necessarily make a government more transparent or accountable. “So if open data doesn’t produce benefits by itself, how does it work?” asked Emily Shaw in a recent post on the Sunlight Foundation’s blog.
Michael Putra, Shell, discusses open policymaking at the OGP Asia Pacific Regional Conference, May 6. Seated to his left are Y. W. Junardy, President, Indonesia Global Compact Network, and Ahmad Yuniarto, Chairman, Schlumberger Indonesia.
At a tender three years of age, the Open Government Partnership (OGP) is growing toward maturity. It has reached a stage where it can reflect on progress made to date and learn from early attempts to inspire action by government and civil society. While enthusiasm remains fresh – palpable in the youth contingent at the Asia Regional Conference in Bali – champions within OGP are thinking seriously about how to ensure the credibility of national commitments and deliver the fruits of open government to the people.
Yet as an observer in Bali, I was mostly struck by the moments of discovery, the “aha” moments that occurred as new and veteran participants encountered one another. OGP is entirely new to many countries in Asia (Papua New Guinea and Burma, for instance) and equally new to certain segments of society, especially the private sector.
At the session hosted by Indonesia Global Compact Network on “Building Trust between Private and Public Sectors for a Competitive and Sustainable Economy,” prominent business people were amazed to know that there is such a partnership for transparency, accountability, and citizen engagement. They immediately grasped the potential of OGP to address issues of concern to them, including innovation policy, education, health, and local development. The light bulb really came on when they expressed that corporate social responsibility is not sufficient, that companies must become active citizens and engage with civil society and government alike to build trust.
By Dr. Jong-Sung Hwang
The Open Government Partnership has become a leading force for advancing transparency and civic engagement in 63 countries. It was founded on a strong partnership between governments and civil society organizations. Recognizing the implications of open governance for economic and democratic development, CIPE has helped to establish an independent Council for Engaging the Private Sector in the Open Government Partnership. The Council is a joint initiative coordinated by the National Information Society Agency of Korea, Microsoft, and the Center for International Private Enterprise. CIPE’s Andrew Wilson, Deputy Director for Strategic Planning, is co-chair. The Council welcomes input from private sector and other stakeholders on the future of engagement in open governance.
Dr. Jong-Sung Hwang, Head of the Korea Big Data Center at the National Information Society Agency, introduces this exciting initiative on the Open Government Partnership blog.
Open government is not a new concept. According to Wikipedia, the idea that government should be open to public scrutiny and responsive to public opinion dates back at least to the time of the Enlightenment. For decades now, the emergence of Freedom of Information legislation and e-government initiatives have propelled a trend toward building transparent, accountable, and responsive governments.
However, open government has acquired new meaning in the 21st century, facilitated by the development of information technology. Whereas open government in the past meant access to information inside government, it now means not only access but also active sharing of information and collaborative governance between government and civil society. The distinction is that access is a one-directional relationship in which the government side opens up. In contrast, sharing implies bi- or multi-directional relationships and requires opening up and engagement by all sides.
The new version of open government, which aims for shared governance, can be named as open government 2.0. As Tim O’Reilly, advocate of Gov 2.0, puts it, open government 2.0 seeks to “redefine the relationship between citizens and government officials, engaging the citizen as a full participant rather than an observer. Citizens are not passive consumers of government services anymore. Instead, they are actively engaged in producing and delivering government services and sharing the results.
Argentina’s state oil company, Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales, was privatized in 1993 but partially re-nationalized in 2012.
Access to information is an integral part of an open democracy. The UNDP defines access to information as encompassing the core principles of democratic governance: participation, transparency, and accountability. And the promotion and protection of both access to information itself and flows of information that exists between constituents, government, civil society organizations and the private sector are of equal importance. Yet, in many countries around the world, transparency or access to information laws are not properly enforced.
Argentina is a good example of this. The Access to Information Decree 1172/03, obliges “the bodies, entities, enterprise, companies, dependencies and all other entity that work under the jurisdiction of the National Executive Branch” to provide public information. The Decree defines private organizations as those either receiving subsidies or contributions from the national government. This definition is particularly important because the percentage of the national budget devoted to public enterprises in Argentina has been increasing – in 2006 it was 2 percent and it rose up to 8 percent by 2012. But are these state-owned enterprises abiding by Decree 1172/03?