Late last week, scores of representatives of different nations were in London to pledge their support of open government. One of those nations was Canada, pledging to provide open data to its citizens. It sounds a little bit comedic, coming from a federal government whose own access to information commissioner has recently stated that this country’s access to information is close to total collapse.
But even funnier is what happens when you dig down: search “Open Data Canada,” and you’ll find a federal website that says hopefully: “Many cities and provinces throughout Canada have launched their own Open Data sites. Below is an integrated map of Canada’s provincial and municipal Open Data sites that have been created to release freely available open data in Canada.” Click on our province and you get exactly one open data site: the province’s road-distance calculation map. The feds can’t even locate the province’s order in council site, or access to information request page. Or else they aren’t trying.
Meanwhile, here’s a collection of nations, and the citations, for projects that were finalists for the Open Government Partnerships’ (OGP) real open government awards. This, in case you’re wondering, is how transparency and accountability really works.
• Chile — The aim of ChileAtiende has been to simplify government to citizens by providing a one-stop shop for accessing public services. Today, ChileAtiende has over 190 offices across the whole country, a national call centre and a digital platform, through which citizens can access multiple services and benefits without having to navigate multiple government offices.
• Estonia — The People’s Assembly … web-based platform allows ordinary citizens to propose policy solutions to problems including fighting corruption. Within three weeks, 1,800 registered users posted nearly 6,000 ideas and comments. Parliament has … set a timetable for the most popular proposals to be introduced in the formal proceedings.
• Georgia — Civil society organizations in Georgia have used the government’s participation in OGP to advocate improvements to the country’s Freedom of Information legislation. Agencies are now obliged to proactively publish information in a way that is accessible to anyone, and to establish an electronic request system for information.
• Indonesia — LAPOR! is a social media channel where Indonesian citizens can submit complaints and enquiries about development programs and public services. Comments are transferred to relevant … government agencies, which can respond via the website. LAPOR! now has more than 225,350 registered users and receives an average of 1,435 inputs per day.
• Montenegro — “Be Responsible” is a mobile app that allows citizens to report local problems, from illegal waste dumps, misuse of official vehicles and irregular parking, to failure to comply with tax regulations and issues over access to health care and education.
• Philippines — The Citizen Participatory Audit project is exploring ways in which citizens can be directly engaged in the audit process for government projects and contribute to ensuring greater efficiency and effectiveness in the use of public resources. Four pilot audits are in progress, covering public works, welfare, environment and education projects.
• Romania — The PublicJob.ro website was set up to counter corruption and lack of transparency in civil service recruitment. PublicJob.ro takes recruitment data from public organizations and emails it to more than 20,000 subscribers in a weekly newsletter. As a result, it has become more difficult to manipulate the recruitment process.
Hard to believe we could learn lessons from countries that used to be so far behind us in openness.