Thursday, July 21, 2016

Open Government: The next steps

Back in April, the SSC "announced" (by an update buried on its web-page) that it was delaying New Zealand's Open Government Partnership Action Plan in order to further engage with the public. It called for submissions on the process, which closed at the end of May. Now, almost a month later, they finally sem to be moving ahead.

The big news is that SSC has contracted out the entire process to a private company, Engage2. Which is so new, it doesn't even have a proper website yet. But they have produced a (draft) engagement plan, which someone has thoughtfully supplied me with.

The timeline for the plan is here. The key part is that public input will happen next month, mostly through an (unspecified) online engagement mechanism, though there will be "co-design" events in Auckland and Christchurch. We'll have two weeks to "co-design the NAP vision", and then another ten days to "co-create recommendations", including through a "co-creation workshop" in Wellington at the end of August. Which is the right sort of language, but far too short a timeframe for meaningful public input and consideration. And while they're talking the talk, given that they're allowing all of a month afterwards to consider public input, there's no real time to meaningfully consider and assess the results of that process. Meaning that it is all likely to be a waste of time anyway, because significant policy change (or even anything they weren't planning on doing anyway) is essentially ruled out by the timeframe.

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe, having displayed bad faith on this issue for the last two years, SSC has finally turned over a new leaf. Maybe they've assembled a high-powered policy team behind the scenes to quickly assess, cost, consult on and develop public suggestions, so they can present a plan to Ministers (and to the OGP) which accurately reflects the expectations of civil society, rather than a pile of pre-determined and pre-existing policies like last time. But I doubt it.