Friday, July 29, 2016

Open Government: Another strapped chicken

The New Zealand Government, through engage2, is currently running a public engagement process around New Zealand's Open Government partnership second national action plan. One of the concerns about this process is that it is a strapped chicken, a box-ticking exercise designed to lend a veneer of "consultation" to a pre-determined agenda.

Sadly, that appears to be true. I received AN OIA response from the State Services Commission today to some queries about the demise of the OGP Stakeholder Advisory Group (who appear to have been summarily dismissed after suggesting some ideas for the action plan). Included in it was an email from al Morrison, who is now in charge of SSC's OGP program, about future proposals for the OGP. And it included this bit:

So, just to make that clear, SSC has already decided what the agenda is for the action plan. So much for "co-creation". The current engagement process around themes appears to be a waste of time.

It gets worse. Because when you delve into SSC's Direction and Priorities for System Stewardship Plan, what you find is Big Brother. It is all about legitimising and using the Integrated Data Infrastructure - the system that cross correlates your tax information with whether you have had an abortion - to push its social investment agenda. So, the major theme that the SSC wants to put in the OGP plan is the utter destruction of our privacy and the transformation of New Zealand into a data surveillance state.

My first reaction to this news is to say "fuck that" and walk away. Participating in the "engagement process" is a waste of my time which lends it legitimacy. The problem is that this is something we need to speak up against. And if we don't, it'll just slip through unnoticed.

So, rather than walking away, I suggest we actually engage. And if the government tries to use the OGP to push Big Brother on us, we make it clear that we do not think that this is what open government is about, and that it is an abuse of the OGP process. It might not work, but it at least will lay the groundwork for the IRM to agree and kick us out in 2017.