Montag, 18. März 2013

What's next for the Open Government Partnership in Europe?

Earlier today I joined an international Google Hangout on open government advocacy experience-sharing, initiated by Paul Maassen, civil society coordinator of the Open Government Partnership. The conference call brought together civil society open government advocates from Ireland (, Uganda, Poland, Bosnia and Germany (joining from Berlin were Daniel Dietrich of the Open Knowledge Foundation, and myself). Both the OKFN and the Internet & Society Collaboratory support the idea of the Open Government Partnership and advocate Germany's membership in the initiative. The German government so far refuses to join, along with a club of European countries, such as Ireland, Poland, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and France, that so far do not intend to join the OGP, however this resistance is losing strength, reports from within government circles in France for example indicate that things are in fact likely to move ahead. The Polish government wants to have its action plan in place first (there is no requirement to do that).

The Hangout illustrated how activists in different European countries go about in lobbying their own governments to join the OGP, a global initiative that would allow institutionalized knowledge-sharing, expert networking, and the introduction of national open government action plans that would also be evaluated by civil society. Some work closely together with other civil society organizations in creating a public debate, others directly contact representatives, or both. In Germany, the OGP working group, then supported by the Bertelsmann Foundation, commissioned a survey (link) last fall and hosted a political evening event. A lot of time has passed since then, and those in the open government community in Germany know that the resistance to the OGP stems from the top level of government and has more to do with culture, fear and misunderstanding than actual cost/benefit analysis, capacity or international relations. Advocates have in fact turned away from the current government, which has made its position clear and official, and are now concentrating on getting this topic on the agenda for this fall's elections instead.

It was interesting to meet like-minded people in other European countries working on this critical topic for our society and it is encouraging to see that Germany is not the only tough environment, and even more encouraging to see how other countries also achieve a lot with little resources and volunteer work. I was glad to participate in this knowledge exchange and hope to see more progress in open government all across Europe.

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