OpenTheGovernment.org and the Open Government Partnership

As some of our partners and friends know, OpenTheGovernment.org has taken on a coordinating role for civil society/nonprofit groups in relation to the emerging Open Government Partnership (OGP) initiative. We think it is important to explain why we are engaging with the OGP – as it is an international effort — and what we hope to achieve by engaging.

So, what is the Open Government Partnership?  It is “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. In the spirit of multi-stakeholder collaboration, OGP is overseen by a steering committee of eight governments and nine civil society organizations. To become a member of OGP, participating countries must embrace a high-level Open Government Declaration; deliver a country action plan developed with public consultation; and commit to independent reporting on their progress going forward.” Eight governments have already signed up and are serving on the first OGP steering committee: Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The Open Government Partnership will formally launch in September 2011, when the eight governments on the steering committee embrace the Open Government Declaration (not yet publicly available) and announce their country action plans.
 

Where Do We Come In? The OGP participant governments are required to commit to developing their country action plans through a multi-stakeholder process, with the active engagement of citizens and civil society.  For US civil society, OpenTheGovernment.org is coordinating discussions among the organizations and is working to facilitate communication between organizations and the US government (USG).
 

The USG has been meeting with individuals and representatives that are already on their radar as being involved in some aspect of the Administration’s Open Government Initiative. The principles that consultations are supposed to follow, though, are:
 

    1. Countries will make the details of their public consultation process and timeline available (online at minimum) prior to the consultation

    2. Countries will consult widely with the national community, including civil society and the private sector; seek out a diverse range of views and; make a summary of the public consultation and all individual written comment submissions available online;

    3. Countries will undertake OGP awareness raising activities to enhance public participation in the consultation;

    4. Countries will consult the population with sufficient forewarning and through a variety of mechanisms—including online and through in person meetings—to ensure the accessibility of opportunities for citizens to engage;

    5. Countries will identify a forum to enable regular multistakeholder consultation on OGP implementation—this can be an existing entity or a new one.

Here is what the USG has to say:

    As part of the Open Government Initiative, we have benefited from knowledgeable and constructive input from external stakeholders with strong commitments to the principles of open government.  The list is long and continues to grow. 

   We have initiated consultations about the Open Government Plan, beginning with a number of meetings with key external stakeholders, and our consultation is now moving to a new phase in which we seek ideas through this platform, in response to specific questions that we raise through a series of blog posts.  We will have a final meeting with stakeholders as we finalize our plan. 

   Today, we are asking for your thoughts on ideas related to two of the key challenges – improving public services and increasing public integrity:

·         How can regulations.gov, one of the primary mechanisms for government transparency and public participation, be made more useful to the public rulemaking process?

·         OMB is beginning the process of reviewing and potentially updating its Federal Web Policy.  What policy updates should be included in this revision to make Federal websites more user-friendly and pertinent to the needs of the public?

·         How can we build on the success of Data.Gov and encourage the use of democratized data to build new consumer-oriented products and services?

    Please think about these questions and send your thoughts to opengov@ostp.gov.  We will post a summary of your submissions online in the future.  Your ideas will be carefully considered as we produce our National Plan and continue to engage with you over the next month in future posts on this blog.

What Do We Hope to Get From the Effort?

The participant governments are also required to develop action plans addressing the themes of transparency, participation, accountability, and innovation. The commitments are to “stretch government practice beyond its current baseline” and to contain “timeframes and benchmarks” to allow evaluation of progress. Plans are to be organized around one or more of five “grand challenges”: improving public services, increasing public integrity, effectively managing public resources, creating safer communities, and increasing corporate accountability.
 

We are hopeful – and are willing to take the chance – that the US government’s plan will advance the goals that our community has espoused to this Administration from the outset and that we can use this opportunity as leverage to strengthen openness. The Administration has indicated that

    Our action plan for the Open Government Partnership will continue and build upon the Open Government efforts first launched by the President’s Memorandum on  Transparency and Open Government, and we look forward to your input and ideas as we develop our action plan going forward.

Please let us know if you would like to be/be more engaged in this process.

 

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