All members of the Open Government Partnership have already voluntarily committed to opening their governments. Measuring the success of these open government reform efforts is a critical second step.
One option is to look at legal and administrative tracking mechanisms. The OGP measures countries’ progress both through periodic self-assessments and the Independent Reporting Mechanism. These are important for evaluating the status of discrete projects and high-level commitments. External measures—like the Global Right to Information Rating—help give a broader assessment of how laws on the books are creating the climate for open government.
Another option is to track the lived experience of individuals within a country: to measure whether citizens are aware of new right to information laws; whether they can take advantage of complaint mechanisms; and whether participation in government is effectually offered.
Our new report, the World Justice Project (WJP) Open Government Index 2015, is the first effort to shed light on government openness from the people’s point of view. The report presents scores and rankings for 102 countries organized around four dimensions: publicized laws and government data, right to information, civic participation, and complaint mechanisms. These scores and rankings are constructed from 78 variables drawn from more than 100,000 household surveys and in-country expert questionnaires collected for the WJP Rule of Law Index. The report is accompanied by an interactive data site displaying scores, rankings, and selected survey responses by country, with gender and socio-economic breakouts.
In our report, we compared Open Government Partnership member versus non-member countries and found that OGP participation indeed linked to more transparent, participatory, and accountable government in practice.
The Index data has two major and related findings on the relationship between Open Government Partnership and open government practices. First: for all levels of economic development, OGP members rank significantly higher on open government outcomes than non-OGP countries. Second: longer membership in the OGP contributes to higher levels of open government outcomes.
Since countries have to meet openness eligibility criteria to join the OGP in the first place, it’s perhaps predictable that they score higher than non-members. But the correlation of membership to outcomes at least demonstrates that the eligibility criteria for joining the OGP serve as a decent proxy for practical success. The fact that successive action plans add to open government scores in the Index, however, suggests that there is also an actual institutional effect of membership on improving open government. Moreover, our data indicates that the gap between OGP members and non-members is larger in low and lower-middle income countries.
Future iterations of the Open Government Index will be able to study this issue more closely, as new members join the OGP and longitudinal data becomes available. For now, these new findings suggest that inviting countries to voluntarily open their government seems to not only result in high-level and project specific successes, but on the ground improvements, too. As a unique source of empirical data, too, we hope that this Index can aid the Open Government Partnership community in both tracking and fulfilling its mission.