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Open Government Partnership talks tech-led transparency

Open government ideas shared at global gabfest

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The Open Government Partnership has met in Brasilia, and discussed several technology-enabled openness initiatives.

The Partnership has over members and bills itself as “a new multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.” Members create openness Action Plans, elements if which were shared at the meeting.

Some of those plans discussed technology-fuelled openness plans including:

  • Open data portals – covering everything from crime statistics and political party funding to local budgets and procurement (proposed by Chile, Estonia, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Peru, Romania, Spain and Tanzania).
  • Improved service delivery – including an interactive local water-point mapping system in Tanzania, digitized medical records in Spain and new/improved portals on service delivery in Italy, Israel, Tanzania and Uruguay.
  • E-petitions. – Ukraine, Slovak Republic, Moldova and Montenegro are all introducing online e-petition portals to collect and respond to citizens’ proposals more quickly and effectively.
  • Challenges and prizes. – Uruguay, Israel, Italy, Jordan and Colombia are introducing government-sponsored prizes and challenges to encourage the private sector and public agencies to better use government data.

The event also featured a Hack Day at which coders were let loose on “A newly created database of government commitments around transparency, accountability and participation covering approximately 50 OGP member countries.” US Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton attended the event, and lauded technology's role in open government.

“Now one theme running through these national action plans is technology, because in the digital age, we now have tools that previous generations of open government advocates couldn’t even dream of,” she told the event. “New technologies make it both possible and useful to do things that were once impractical or prohibitively expensive, like releasing enormous quantities of public data, or making national budgets easily available online. And of course, new connection technologies empower citizens to connect with one another and their leaders, as we have seen in this past year of the era of awakening.”

“I’ve seen how technology is transforming the way that we and other nations do diplomacy and development, and later today, I will be sending policy guidance to every U.S. Embassy worldwide on modernizing technology through diplomacy. We want to open up the State Department not only to U.S. citizens, but to people everywhere, because in keeping with the principles of open government and this partnership, we believe that when people are empowered to speak their minds and leaders are held to account for their actions, we all do better.”

But Clinton also warned the existence of technology does not translate into openness. “Technology isn’t some kind of magic wand,” she said. “Ultimately, it is political will that determines whether or not we hold ourselves accountable.”

Representatives of the UK government also attended the even, but Australia is not yet a member and did not send a representative. A spokesperson for Australia's Attorney-General's department said "The Government is considering and consulting on the Open Government Partnership initiative including attending a meeting of the partnership in July 2011." ®

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