Open government: where to begin with? A showcase

When we speak about Open Government, it is easy to getting lost in the lingo of names and concepts and not being able to bring things down to Earth. In the past I draw a simplified scheme for Open Government. Now I want to highlight some practical applications of that scheme.

The table below presents, on the one hand, the three layers of Open Government:

  • Transparency: let people know.
  • Participation: let people speak.
  • Collaboration: let people do.

On the other hand, it lists the five stages of public decision-making (there are other models with more or less stages, of course):

  • Diagnosis: what is going on, what do we need, what do we want.
  • Deliberation: what are the impacts, what are the options.
  • Negotiation: what are our preferences.
  • Vote: what is our decision.
  • Assessment: which were the results.

By crossing these two axes, I suggest some lines of action, some specific projects that can be put into practice. This is of course not an exhaustive list, and many projects can be placed in more than just one cell. It is, as I said, just a showcase of where to begin with.

Layer/Stage Diagnosis Deliberation Negotiation Vote Assessment
Transparency Politician/officer scoreboard Technical reports Open agendas Legislative footprint Open budgetting
Participation Blogs and citizen social networking sites Officers’ and projects’ blogs Policy technical reports Citizen consultations Data visualization
Collaboration Green books Facilitation of citizen deliberation Groups of interest PSPP Citizen scoreboard

Table 1. An open government showcase.

Open Government: A simplified scheme

This is a general (though simplified) scheme of what includes the concept of open government. This is a very broad concept that is general understood as transparency, or accountability. Sometimes it is taken as government 2.0, as the institutionalization of the web 2.0 and politics 2.0. Some other times it is just confused by mere e-government.

But it is much more than that. And here I try to present a first version of an attempt to relate all the concepts that fall under the big umbrella of open government. Please note that all the scheme is open government: what is pictured in the lower left corner, “Open government (meta project)” is how the project itself is presented to the citizen, with its own blog, its own software repository and other institutional relationships with other governments.

The scheme is not comprehensive, but just aims at highlighting the main components.

As for the shapes and colours:

  • Orange rhombuses picture agents: politicians, officers, individual citizens, civil society organizations, and the open government team in a given government.
  • Black rectangles are processes where decisions are made.
  • Green rectangles with the curved lower edge are outputs or presentation of information.
  • Gray cylinders are databases or data silos.

Arrows do not have a very accurate meaning. In general, all links are bi-directional: information flows in both ways. When there is an arrow, it implies that information only flows in the sense of the arrow — this look cleaner that double arrows, which would have populated the whole scheme. But, as said, it is more a way to stress some points (e.g. the politician feeds its Twitter account) rather than being a strong statement.

All comments are more than welcome.

Juan Ignacio Criado Grande: Networks, participation and Open Government

Notes from the II Open Government Conference Terrassa, held in Terrassa, Spain, on 16 October 2014. More notes on this event: OGovDayTerrassa.

Keynote: Networks, participation and Open Government
Juan Ignacio Criado Grande, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid

Social technologies are the new engine of the Network Society.

What recent global revolutions had in common is the possibility that anonymous citizens, people that had never met each other, can communicate among themselves and can take action after that. This is the potential of the Web 2.0.

But if the hype of the Web 2.0 is smoothly down, Open Government has been a common topic for ages. This is especially true in Anglo-Saxon countries, but not in Latin countries, where gobierno abierto is a new thing: there’s much work to do in this field in certain economies (e.g. Spain).

Open data, if well structured and linked, can become rich data and be much more useful.

Open Government: towards a new paradigm of public adminitration?

But open government is not only opening, or technology, but a new paradigm of public administration, based on transparency and accountability, dialogue and participation, to enbale a collaboration between citizens and the government.

  • Transparency: end of the monopoly of the state on information.
  • Participation: citizens have to be engaged.
  • Collaboration: the more actors the better to solve a problem.

This approach has to be put into practice, with real policies, and policies that can be measured and evaluated.

But is openness good for everyone? What about privacy? Openness can have its drawbacks and we have to be aware of them.

What are public administrations doing in social networking sites?

What do social networking sites allow governments to do?

  • Constant conversation.
  • Collaborative content.
  • Constant evaluation.
  • Remix.
  • Disintermediation.
  • Empowerment.

5 participation levels:

  • Inform.
  • Consult.
  • Engage.
  • Collaborate.
  • Empower.

Social media allow governments to build a community, build a network.

With open government we are trying to install a new software on an obsolete hardware. So, the management of change becomes key for success.

An important caveat: are we using new technologies to achieve our goals? Or just for the sake of using them and look cool?

The importance of the perpetual beta: organizations have to learn to learn, to be in the logic of constant learning. We have to quickly evolve from open government towards intelligent government.

Goverati: An alternative to representative democracy?

Yesterday I spoke at the Jornadas sobre redes y cultura compartida: De la cultura distribuida a la transformación del conocimiento (Conference on networks and shared culture: from distributed culture to the transformation of knowledge).

I had been asked to answer this question: could we, thanks to the Internet, forget about political parties and let people express their own opinions, debate and vote their representatives directly?

An initial answer to the question would be: well, yes, why not? But, should we?

Instead of providing such an answer — or any answer at all — I tried instead to:

  1. explain that some dire (socioeconomic) changes were taking place,
  2. focus on why these socioeconomic changes were taking place and
  3. infer, from this, what conditions shall take place in the future for
  4. another wave of changes to happen.

In other words:

  1. we have shifted from an Industrial Society to an Information Society (and what each concept means),
  2. that this has been because of digitization and Information and Communication Technologies (and other aspects, all of which led to second order factors, etc.) and
  3. that we should really be aware of digital competences, the digital divide and the unbalances of power
  4. for full e-Democracy to happen.

[click here to enlarge]

As can be seen in the presentation, I showed and explained almost 20 cases which I consider either successful or revolutionary or both, cases that have been replicated and will inspire many others.

But I also devoted plenty of time at showing, with real data, that these initiatives are mostly piloted by a tiny minority, my caveat being that we should try and bring more people in — by fighting the aforementioned barriers — instead of keeping on exploring new territories. The reason being that we could find ourselves having replaced a democracy by a digital aristocracy.

I admit that (One of) the bad point(s) in my approach is that it is very economy-focussed, instead of being politics/government based and thus leaving aside many aspects tied to the nature of the subject. On the other hand, I think that the good point is that it makes it easy to go back to the reasons, the whys, and not just the hows. Indeed, the approach is equally useful (as I did yesterday) to explain some changes in education or media.

During the questions & answers session, I really got clever feedback from the audience, while also giving me a second chance to clarify some aspects. Here they go:

  • The main aspect to address to achieve good e-Democracy is not the “e-” part, but the “Democracy” part. Difference, for instance, in the USA and European e-politics are more related with the political system rather than the different rates of Internet adoption or digital literacy (which are not that significantly different, by the way)
  • Information overload is a problem, which has to be addressed (among other things) with information literacy. Urgently.
  • New media literacies will be required too as we learnt to tell true from false when watching TV or FX-intensive movies.
  • Editors should be, in my opinion, a keystone in the new Information Society. The problem is that journalists/editors are more concerned about selling audiences to their advertisers or paper to their readers, rather than creating/editing good information and finding out how to get paid for it.
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