Friday, October 31, 2014

A lack of commitment

New Zealand has finally joined the Open Government Partnership. A requirement of membership is to submit an action plan about how you will improve open government over the next two years. So what's in ours? Sweet fuck-all:

Our Action Plan will initially focus on the:
  • Better Public Services Results programme
  • Government ICT Strategy and Action Plan to 2017
  • Kia TÅ«tahi Relationship Accord; and
  • Transparency International New Zealand's 2013 National Integrity System assessment.
To point out the obvious, this was all stuff the government was doing anyway, so our membership of the OGP has made no difference at all to actual practice. But more importantly, its a long, long way from open government as understood by citizens. There's nothing in here about increased transparency, and nothing about increased civic participation. And when you compare it to Transparency International's suggestions, top of which was extended coverage of the OIA and more transparent political party finances, there's a yawning gap. But then, given their "consultation" process, which excluded the public and ignored even its handpicked participants, that's not really surprising.

This is not an ambitious programme for open government. It is lazy, and it deliberately avoids the areas the government desperately needs to make progress on. The obvious conclusion is that we're not committed to the OGP process, but instead are using it for PR purposes, to say how great we are, while changing nothing. And that is simply dishonest.