What is ‘open government’?

A post from Andrea di Maio entitled ‘Open Government Partnership: The Good, the Bad and The Ugly’ (his capitals) as usual hits the nail right on the head. I’ve discussed ‘open data’ and ‘open government’ in a number of posts including most relevantly this one on ‘open by design’ and we still appear to be lacking clarity over what the outcomes are intended to be.

Andrea, whilst accepting that ‘open government’ is essentially a good thing, picks up a number of matters:

  • In the past, benchmarking has made some countries waste resources by e-enabling the wrong things
  • There is a risk that the debate focuses on the ‘how’ rather than the ‘why’
  • Top ten commitments focus upon increasing transparency – what about service delivery and sustainable efficiency

He then argues that the end goal should be a “grand challenge” supported by “transparency, accountability and engagement”, rather than the other way around. He concludes by suggesting that the session on building a business case examines “how to measure the real impact and success (or lack thereof) of open government”.

Then, Simon Sharwood in The Register  continues the topic in “Open Government Partnership talks tech-led transparency” pointing out that one government absent from the meeting is Australia and that Hilary Clinton had warned that ‘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”‘ Which makes it all sound like e-government over again…, in the immortal words of Cicero “O tempora O mores”.

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