Open Government Partnership

Open Government Partnership
1 November, 2013

The Post 2015 Development Agenda

Open Government Partnership

The 2013 Open Government Partnership (OGP) summit was held in London, with the support of UKCDS DFID and the FCO.

The 2013 Open Government Partnership (OGP) summit was held in London, with the support of UKCDS members the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). The OGP was launched in 2011 as an international platform bringing together national governments committed to improving transparency, accountability and participation (known by the handy acronym TAP) in political processes.

One panel discussion I tuned in to watch was the ‘Open Government and Post 2015 Development Framework’ discussion, picking up on David Cameron’s comment in his keynote speech that open government must be at the heart of efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. The panellists all recognised that the fundamental development notion of good governance is inseparable from open government. They emphasised the need to inscribe TAP values into the heart of the post-2015 agenda, in seeking to move beyond the (as President Kikwete of Tanzania put it) “unfinished business” of the Millennium Development Goals. Each panellist made it clear that the effective delivery of health, education, sanitation or aid services relies on openness and accountability at every level. President Kikwete highlighted the need for robust, sustainable growth in countries like Tanzania, in which people are given greater ownership of the abundant natural resource wealth through genuine civil society participation.

The discussion implied that a ‘data revolution’ isn’t necessarily so much about big data as improved everyday access to reliable information. Minister Mangkusubroto of Indonesia explicitly referred to the human right to information, while President Kikwete’s as an example stated that women going to clinics should be able to make informed choices about services and help available. Linked to this focus on women and girls, Justine Greening MP noted that if “information is power”, this has to be shared more equally and evenly among both women and men post-2015. Given that there are 300 million more men than women with mobile phones, there is clearly a way to go in achieving such parity in information access.

The idea of a right to open government was picked up by Tanzanian civil society leader Rakesh Rajani, who emphasised the fact that the government does not have a “monopoly on ideas” and has much to learn from engaging with civil society voices. Open government in his view is also a matter of efficiency; the post-2015 framework, in contrast to the MDGs which put aid centre stage, will be more about smarter, more effective use of domestic resources, managed for the good of citizens. He emphasised the huge costs of procurement to government, and the potential for open contracting to make more money available in the post-2015 framework to better provide services like education and health.

The most striking parts of the discussion involved examples from Indonesia and Tanzania on how the undeniably good intentions of the OGP can be put into practice by central governments themselves. Minister Mangkusubroto described Indonesia’s ‘One Map Initiative’, a central database of geospatial data to which anyone with a phone or computer can contribute. He highlighted the way in which the drive towards open governance in this case stemmed from an unequivocal demand from Indonesians for one central map to replace confusing, conflicting sources and therefore to help redress contested claims over land and rainforest. By corollary, the Open Government Partnership shouldn’t just be a set of externally-imposed, nebulous norms but an obligation to deliver in response to clearly-defined domestic needs.

The Tanzanian representatives discussed rigorous education surveys carried out by Twaweza, which found that schoolchildren’s attainment was still alarmingly low despite the present government’s tripling of the education budget. The President acknowledged there were clear issues to rectify, while Rajani implied that only through the sharing of information and further data analysis can the root causes be discerned.

Therefore the panel made great strides in moving beyond the firmly-established consensus that effective development post 2015 depends on good governance, to proposing how openness can actually be delivered, through genuine accountability and space for participation. The resounding impression was that a post-2015 ‘data revolution’ may rely on enhanced science and technology, but equally upon real input, participation and information uptake among all sectors of government and civil society.

Image credit: Pawel Czerwinski

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