Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Open Government: What do people want?

The SSC and Engage2 are currently conducting public consultation on New Zealand's second Open Government partnership national action plan. Proposed commitments are flowing into the co-creation site here, and some good ones are emerging (the current winner is signing up for the International Standards for Lobbying Regulation, which would see lobbyists registered and regulated). But earlier, they ran a short consultation on the background to the action plan, including what people meant by "open government" and what themes they wanted in the action plan. Engage2 has reported back on some of the ideas that emerged from that here, but they missed the big one: what do people mean by "open government"?

Analysing the public submissions, and the answer is clear: open government means transparency. Nine of the fourteen submitters talked about transparency and access to information in their answer about open government. By contrast, six talked about participation (so this is clearly important to people too), three about accountability, and only two about technology.

Compare this to SSC's hidden agenda, which is all about technology - because focusing on technology allows them to avoid fundamental change and allowing us dirty peasants some scrutiny and say. But its clear that that agenda isn't what people want. And if the action plan reflects it, then it will be another failure, just like the last one.

Finally: while the public and civil society are contributing their ideas through the co-creation site, I've been told that SSC won't be - perhaps because they're afraid of public criticism and rejection. But if they want the action plan to be truly co-created, they should seek public endorsement of their proposals and preferred themes. Otherwise, they run the real risk of the entire process being seen as a cynical box-ticking exercise aimed at legitimising an agenda into which the participants have no input - and a complete waste of our time.