A Working Definition of “Open Government” | Global Integrity

abernard102@gmail.com 2012-05-26


I’ve been spending a non-trivial amount of time lately watching and pondering the explosive uptake of the term ‘open government.’ This probably isn’t too surprising given Global Integrity’s involvement in the nascent Open Government Partnership(OGP). As excited as I’ve been to witness the growth of OGP, the continued progress of the open data movement, and the emerging norms around citizen participation in government internationally, I’ve also been worrying that the longer we allow ‘open government’ to mean any and everything to anyone, the risk increases that the term melts into a hollow nothingness of rhetoric.  My most immediate concern, which I’ve been chronicling of late over on this Tumblr, has been the conflation of ‘open data’ with ‘open government,’ an issue well-explored by Harlan Yu and David Robinson in this paper. I’ve also been publicly concerned about the apparent emphasis put on open data — seemingly at the expense of other open government-related priorities — by the current UK government, which is slated to take over the co-chairmanship of OGP shortly. (An excellent unpacking of those concerns can be found in this letter from leading UK NGOs to the government.)  But for all my griping, I’ve yet to put my money where my mouth is and offer up my own definition of what ‘open government’ means. It’s time to fix that.  What follows is, at best, a rough working definition of open government that I hope spurs debate and conversation. This is certainly not 100% correct, all-encompassing, or definitive. Nor is it rocket science: this tracks fairly closely with others’ thinking, and I suspect it’s not too far outside of anyone’s mainstream definition (including the Open Government Declaration of September 2011) At its core, ‘open government’ to me means three things: [1] Information Transparency: that the public understands the workings of their government; [2] Public engagement: that the public can influence the workings of their government by engaging in governmental policy processes and service delivery programs; and [3] Accountability: that the public can hold the government to account for its policy and service delivery performance.  Into those three buckets we can then deposit many of the ‘open government’ initiatives, programs, and interventions that are often invoked on their own as ‘open government.’ What’s most important here, to me, is that none of these initiatives or interventions in and of themselves constitute ‘open government’ alone. Rather, only when combined with the others do we truly see the potential for ‘open government’ in its most powerful and holistic form...”



From feeds:

Open Access Tracking Project (OATP) » abernard102@gmail.com


oa.new oa.data oa.comment oa.government oa.declarations oa.crowd oa.lay oa.definitions oa.ogp

Date tagged:

05/26/2012, 12:03

Date published:

05/26/2012, 08:03