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Paul Maassen: Citizen Engagement and Technology are both pillars of OGP - but they need to interact

Paul Maassen: Citizen Engagement and Technology are both pillars of OGP - but they need to interact

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Published by ActiveCitizen
Paul Maassen (@maassenpaul) presentation at Open Data Ireland Meet up #3 "Citizen Engagement and OGP", 24 January 2013, Dublin, Ireland
Paul Maassen (@maassenpaul) presentation at Open Data Ireland Meet up #3 "Citizen Engagement and OGP", 24 January 2013, Dublin, Ireland

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Paul Maassen – notes for Open Data Meet-up #3 (January 24, 2013)
INTRODUCTION TO OGP
I want to base my story today on both the theory and practice of OGP, with a emphasis on the civilsociety perspective. After describing the OGP basics I will focus on two of its key elements – citizenengagement and technology. Finally, I will do my best to convince you why being part of the Irish OGP journey makes sense for techies, activists and engaged citizens at large. The citizen really is at the heartof the OGP philosophy and mechanics.
Start of OGP 
 
OGP started in 2011 and now has 58 members with some more lined up – like Ireland. To my opinionOGP builds on two current trends.A
positive 
trend of open government momentum:
 
 
Freedom of information laws have been passed in many countries the last decades - over 90countries have some sort of legislation in place now (the Swedes started this whole trend in 1766);
 
 
The fast rise of social media and new communications tools has opened up new ways for gettinginformation, expressing yourself, and for engaging/interacting with those in power. All very bottomup;
 
 
The launch of big global initiatives like IATI and EITI has pushed previously closed domains towardsopenness;
 
 
The open data movement includes many forms, from hacking to pro-active disclosure. It is a reallyinteresting space to watch, especially where they open up new, useful data that can be combinedand brilliantly visualized
 
And a
negative 
trend where this same technology is used for the ‘bad’, where space for civil society isdeclining, where people have little faith in government and especially in politicians.
 
 
Freedom House says that while the number of countries ranked as Free in 2012 grew to 90 (+3), 27countries showed significant declines in freedoms;
 
In the Netherlands only 10% of the population believes business leaders and politicians tell the truthwhen confronted by a difficult question, and fewer than 20% believe business leaders and politiciansare capable of solving difficult problems (Edelman global PR firm);
 
According to EU research a whopping 89% of Europeans state that there is a big gap between publicopinion and the decisions taken by political leaders (EuroBarometer).
 
Paul Maassen – notes for Open Data Meet-up #3 (January 24, 2013)
CITIZEN ENGAGEMENT IN OGP
In the climate of
those 
two trends OGP was born, clearly riding the positive wave and aiming to counterthe negative one by launching a partnership between government and civil society and ultimately thecitizen. The final aim of the partnership is to create a better and more open society where citizens areengaged and trust that their governments are looking out for the interests of their citizens.
 
In a quick re-run. OGP is an international, multi-stakeholder initiative where countries that meet aneligibility threshold can become a member. Members develop an action plan with ambitiouscommitments around transparency, participation and accountability. The process has three keyelements:
 
 
Equal partnership between civil society and government (in governance of OGP, in the consultationprocess);
 
 
Concrete, ambitious commitments on one of the 5 grand challenges that need to be defined SMART;
 
 
Independent outside monitoring of progress on process, intentions and commitment delivery.
 
In the design of OGP you see the citizen engagement angle coming back everywhere: in the eligibilitycriteria (where it is 1 of 4 criteria), in the governance (50% of the power is with civil society leaders fromacross the globe), in the monitoring. Citizen engagement is part of the objectives – that what OGPstrives for - and fully part of the mechanics – i.e. what will make it work and bring the change.
 
THE ROLE OF TECH IN OGP
Technology and innovation are big things in OGP. Some countries actually think that technology willautomatically bring transparency, participation and accountability. To some extent you see thatreflected in the commitments made:
 
E-government
 
175
 
22%
 
Open Data
 
151
 
19%
 
Citizen Engagement
 
118
 
15%
 
Access to Information/ Freedom of Information
 
86
 
11%
 
Global Integrity Analysis (July 2012)
And many of the citizen engagement and access to information promises have underlying ICTapproaches as well.
 
To be honest, it feels as if some countries see tech as the magic potion that will easily solve theirproblems and strengthen their economy and society. Well, it does help, but I am afraid it is more
 
Paul Maassen – notes for Open Data Meet-up #3 (January 24, 2013)
difficult to get change in the way we do things, in norms, policies and political will and to restore thetrust of citizens in society.
 
So, technology is a brilliant tool but not enough. I have worked for more than a decade in the field ofmaking use of ICT & media for societal change, for civil society advocacy, and for increasing access toinformation and expression. I know the excitement the ICT possibilities and promises bring. But also howdifficult it is to get it right, to smartly integrate it into the things we are already doing and to make itwork for longer-term policy changes. That asks for strategic thinking, taking risks, an open mind andenough time.
 
SOME EXAMPLES OF CITIZEN ENGAGEMENT AND TECH
Let’s first turn to some examples of citizen engagement and technology just to give you a flavour.
 
 
Rahvakogumeaning people’s assembly. An Estonian initiative to crowd-source proposals from thebroader public, discuss them online, analyse, group and select them and then actually discuss themin parliament. A nice way to see how a technology tool can result in policy making. It is a newinitiative, so far 1155 proposals from 1400 different (registered) users
 
 
Daraja/Twawezain East Africa did a pilot on water monitoring. On paper a brilliant example. Startwith 1) a topic people care about - water, 2) enable citizens to report broken water pumps by textmessage in real time, 3) make sure the follow up and feedback are organized, 4) plan a massivemedia campaign to make people aware of what it is and how it works. The organisation howeveronly collected 53 texts that could be used. It seemed so simple, but getting it right is difficult. It isabout changing deeper beliefs, for example that there really will be a reaction or that sendingcritique will not harm you down the line. Tech is never enough.
 
 
Kenya Open Data portalwas part of their OGP commitments: they were the first, they worked with arange of national and international actors, had a very good start, but are now facing problems.Datasets are not coming online fast enough (reluctance from the entities holding them), keepingthem updated is difficult, making them useful is even more difficult. A good follow-up project on-going is to place open data fellows with media and civil society organisations to make the data workfor reporting and for advocacy. At the moment just a couple of 100 datasets, but interesting ones onhealth and education. Related initiatives: the US data.gov has 380,000 data sets. You can makesuggestions if you want more…. Data.gov.uk has 9,000. The numbers are astonishing, no?
 
 
M-pesa, mobile banking. That is where entrepreneurship, innovation and tech really came together.People had phones, phone networks and shops reached to the deepest veins of the country, bankservices were highly needed but hardly available (especially for the poor/rural). Then M-pesa came.Cheap, simple, building on existing networks. Now they have more customers than the bankscombined, got duplicated in a range of countries, and introduced other services (savings, loans).
 
 
Visualisation of data and information, from info-graphics (OGP hasone: ) to videos to Hans Roslingsbrilliantgapminderto visualize trends over time. Absolutely crucial to make data understandable.
 

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