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Open Government Partnership

Posted by Dominic Byrne on Wed, 02 Oct 2013 10:09:49 BST

Guest Blog by Nuala Haughey, Advocacy and Research Manager of Transparency International Ireland who were appointed by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in 2013 to coordinate and administer a consultative process with civil society and citizens on Open Government Partnership (OGP) to produce civil societys proposals for Irelands participation in the OGP.

What does open government mean? What do Irish citizens and civil society want to see government and local authorities do in a more open and accessible way? Over the past few weeks, these questions have been asked at a series of public consultations which have put Ireland on the path to joining the Open Government Partnership.

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a multilateral initiative that aims to secure commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. So far, so jargony.

But don’t let this put you off. Fundamentally this new global partnership between citizens and government is about improving peoples’ lives. It’s about public services that are better because users have had an input into their design. It’s about public spending that is wiser because key information is readily available for external scrutiny. And it’s about less corruption because power is not exercised behind closed doors.

In order to join OGP, Ireland must submit a National Action Plan conceived with input from citizens and civil society – hence the recent public meetings. Transparency International Ireland is coordinating this consultation, which is funded by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the lead government department on OGP.

Minister Howlin at OGP Meeting

Minister Brendan Howlin speaking at OGP Meeting

The last of three public sessions will take place next Thursday, September 5th, in Dublin’s Wood Quay Venue behind the Civic Offices. At this half day gathering, participants will fine tune their proposals to government for inclusion in Ireland’s first OGP National Action Plan. These proposals came together at the two earlier sessions and through online input.

These meetings are open to individuals and civil society members. And they have attracted a diverse range of people including anti-corruption experts, computer developers, open data enthusiasts, environmental activists, social justice advocates, development organisations, youth and community groups, as well as committed and interested individuals including business people.

The topics under discussion have been equally diverse – everything from technical talk about open data sets and standards to proposals for schools and local authorities to foster active citizenship.

Working groups are key to the success of this consultation. They were established at the first public meeting in July, based on the core principles of OGP – Accountability; Citizen Participation; Transparency; and Technology and Innovation. With the help of able and committed expert facilitators, these groups have honed and refined their proposals, both online and offline.

These are close to being finalised – the deadline for online contributions is September 2nd. At next week’s final meeting participants will sign off on these proposals and determine their priorities for the first Action Plan.

Outputs from OGP Meeting

Outputs from discussions at OGP Meeting

As regular readers of this blog may know, the Open Data Ireland group and Active Citizen have been at the forefront in calling for Ireland to join the OGP.  However, if you have not heard of OGP, you are not alone. It hasn’t received a lot of press outside the circles of the interested – either in Ireland or internationally – since it was founded in New York in September 2011. But this is only to be expected, as partnerships are based on trust which must be built from the bottom up, a process which requires time.

As this consultation winds up, a new phase in Ireland’s OGP journey awaits. The Action Plan proposals from citizens and civil society will be presented in a report to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. After that, both the public service and civil society will need to come together to discuss their respective proposals. Then after the first Action Plan is finalised, progress in implementing its commitments must be monitored. Action Plans are reviewed annually - they are ‘living documents’ to be updated – so this is an open process.

Ireland’s pending OGP membership is not just about developing a strong first Action Plan, but also about laying the foundations for a new partnership between government and civil society. It is really vital that as many voices and views as possible feed into this process in the months and years ahead.

As the OGP’s blog states, good ideas come from everywhere. So, if you are interested in open government, please join us online at www.ogpireland.ie. And, if you can, come to our next meeting on September 5th as we fine tune our proposals and share ideas on how to make this new partnership a success in the months and years ahead.

Nuala Haughey
Advocacy and Research Manager - Transparency International Ireland


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