Why the Open Government Partnership Needs a Reboot [Governments Too]

Why the Open Government Partnership Needs a Reboot by Steve Adler.

From the post:

The Open Government Partnership was created in 2011 as an international forum for nations committed to implementing Open Government programs for the advancement of their societies. The idea of open government started in the 1980s after CSPAN was launched to broadcast U.S. Congressional proceedings and hearings to the American public on TV. While the galleries above the House of Representatives and Senate had been “open” to the “public” (if you got permission from your representative to attend) for decades, never before had all public democratic deliberations been broadcast on TV for the entire nation to behold at any time they wished to tune in.

I am a big fan of OGP and feel that the ideals and ambition of this partnership are noble and essential to the survival of democracy in this millennium. But OGP is a startup, and every startup business or program faces a chasm it must cross from early adopters and innovators to early majority market implementation and OGP is very much at this crossroads today. It has expanded membership at a furious pace the past three years and it’s clear to me that expansion is now far more important to OGP than the delivery of the benefits of open government to the hundreds of millions of citizens who need transparent transformation.

OGP needs a reboot.

The structure of a system produces its own behavior. OGP needs a new organizational structure with new methods for evaluating national commitments. But that reboot needs to happen within its current mission. We should see clearly that the current structure is straining due to the rapid expansion of membership. There aren’t enough support unit resources to manage the expansion. We have to rethink how we manage national commitments and how we evaluate what it means to be an open government. It’s just not right that countries can celebrate baby steps at OGP events while at the same time passing odious legislation, sidestepping OGP accomplishments, buckling to corruption, and cracking down on journalists.

Unlike Steve I didn’t and don’t have a lot of faith in governments being voluntarily transparent.

As I pointed out in Congress: More XQuery Fodder, sometime in 2016, full bill status data will be available for all legislation before the United States Congress.

A lot more data than is easy to access now but it is more smoke than fire.

With legislation status data, you can track the civics lesson progression of a bill through Congress, but that leaves you at least 3 to 4 degrees short of knowing who was behind the legislation.

Just a short list of what more would be useful:

  • Visitor/caller list for everyone who spoke to a member of Congress and their staff. With date and subject of the call.
  • All visitors and calls tied to particular legislation and/or classes of legislation
  • All fund raising calls made by members of Congress and/or their staffs, date, results, substance of call.
  • Representative conversations with reconciliation committee members or their staffers about legislation and requested “corrections.”
  • All conversations between a representative or member of their staff and agency staff, identifying all parties and the substance of the conversation
  • Notes, proposals, discussion notes for all agencies decisions

Current transparency proposals are sufficient to confuse the public with mounds of nearly useless data. None of it reflects the real decision making processes of government.

Before someone shouts “privacy,” I would point out that no citizen has a right to privacy when their request is for a government representative to favor them over other citizens of the same government.

Real government transparency will require breaking the mini-star chamber proceedings from the lowest to the highest levels of government.

What we need is a rebooting of governments.

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