Our take on the OGP Summit

The Open Government Partnership Summit was held in London last week. It brought together participants from all around the world – government officials to civil society organisations – all of which share a common interest in increased accountability and transparency.

Publish What You Fund was out in force, and we used the summit as an opportunity to present our 2013 ATI findings, as part of Global Transparency Week.

The summit brought up an interesting debate about the role of media and open government and accountability initiatives. No matter what you might think about the value of column inches, one thing is clear: if we want journalists to be part of the development of open government practices, we need to find a way to better include them.

There was a notable lack of journalists at the summit. But that is likely this is because they are lacking the appropriate skills – especially data collection and analysis – to understand how they can engage with the subject matter. This should be exactly where the CSO community steps in, to help the media understand how they are an important part of the open government movement.

But that’s just my impression – here are some more thoughts on #OGP13 from our team:

Liz Steele, EU Representative

“On the whole the summit was a great event to learn more about other transparency initiatives and meet people from different parts of the open data movement. The event also highlighted the fact that without some kind of monitoring or accountability mechanism there’s a real risk that OGP membership provides a ‘veneer of respectability’ for governments on their transparency.”

Catalina Reyes, U.S. Advocacy Officer

“Perhaps the best part about OGP is that it brings together, under one umbrella, the voice of NGOs and governments. It presents a real opportunity for more equal engagement between these two sectors which often fail to talk on the same platform. It was great to welcome our U.S. partners in London and to introduce them to some of our European colleagues. The real test will come when governments review their plans. Will the NGOs proposals be included and adopted in the new governments’ plans? Will the new commitments really represent a stretch from the current practice? Will the implementation of the commitments include true and open collaboration with the NGO sector? We’ll be watching!”

Rachel Rank, Research & Monitoring Manager

“OGP is an exciting initiative with real potential, but it needs to demonstrate its robustness as it progresses. NAPs need to be complete, not cherry pick certain issues, and they need to include new commitments. Governments need to be monitored closely to make sure they meet their commitments and be penalised if they don’t. We know from our own experience with the Index that monitoring commitments and delivery requires detailed, consistent assessment; but we also know that donors respond to this.”

Shreya Basu, Research Assistant

“Overall it was a great reminder of how far the open data movement has come and how much work still remains to be done, especially on linking transparency movements and creating joined-data that can be used to meaningfully meet the needs of the different stakeholder groups. It’s clear that by the time the next Summit is held, we need to have made some real progress on this front not just to demonstrate that it is possible to convert all the talk into action but also to move the conversation along from data availability and access to actual data use.”

Nicholas Winnett, Executive Assistant

“On the whole I thought it was a great event. It was particularly good to speak to other open data initiatives on how we can work to create more ‘linked-data’. Watching Norway and the U.S. launch their country Action Plans 2.0 was a strange spectacle with the U.S. not having a plan to launch in time. It was incredibly frustrating from the U.S. side, whilst Norway was quite impressive.”

Andrew Clarke, Advocacy Manager

“I got a sense that the transparency and accountability community is starting to understand the practical gains to be won from linking up data and initiatives. For example, David Cameron’s announcement that a UK registry of corporate beneficial ownership will be made public is genuinely ground-breaking. But it will be doubly exciting when that company data is linked to information from open contracting. That will massively reduce the opportunities for corruption and increase cross-jurisdictional analysis of contractor effectiveness and accountability.”

Want to read even more about the summit? Read this blog by Leni Wild, Research Fellow at the Overseas Development Institute.

Katie Welford

Katie is the Communications Officer at Publish What You Fund. You can reach her at katie@publishwhatyoufund.org.
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