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Open Government means becoming better at governing

On December 7, 2016, the Federal Minister of the Interior, Dr. Thomas de Maizière, announced the beginning of Germany’s participation in the Open Government Partnership (OGP). We are very glad to be part of this initiative and we are looking forward to an active exchange of ideas on how to serve citizens better and strengthen institutions.

First of all I want to thank all the organizers of the OGP Global Summit, especially the representatives of the Government of France, the OGP Support Unit and our colleagues at the OECD, for a truly inspirational event. One very crucial element of Open Government was a central theme at the OGP Global Summit: When citizens, businesses and government work together to deal with societal challenges, our democracies are able to achieve great things. The spirit of cooperation is not just mere pragmatism; it is the essence of Open Government, which is about far more than just transparency.

For public administrations it is often especially challenging to listen to and engage citizens, but when we see someone extending a helping hand, we need to value that engagement. It is called Open Government also because being open to others and new ideas and being willing to listen to citizens’ concerns is a central element of our civil society.

The idea of Open Government has also progressed beyond technology. It is no longer just about publishing data or about creating apps. It is about making a real difference. Open Government has become a driver of innovative approaches to overcome societal challenges. The main question is how we want to live together as a society. Especially in view of our current challenges, be they migration, populism, cybercrime or violent conflicts, social cohesion is a key policy issue. To remain vital, democracy depends on respecting and listening to each other, following rules and upholding common values.

In more concrete terms, we need to focus our efforts on pursuing Open Government strategies that result in real improvements in the lives of citizens. Whether this means streamlining interaction with authorities, releasing useful information to the public or providing formats for participation that truly benefit all sides. It is not surprising that IRM data shows that most OGP commitments are about transparency rather than participation. Participation is a complicated endeavor for public institutions, whereas publishing information does not require change in the ways and means of government to the same degree that opening up your processes to external participation is.

Many in this community know that open data is at the heart of Open Government. Our information societies are fueled by the availability of re-usable public data and the innovation such infrastructure enables. Our government is working on enshrining the “open by default” principle into law for the first time, providing legal security for our public servants and the much needed push for more useful open government data.

Our participation in the OGP is only beginning, and much work lies ahead of us, as the other governments can attest. We are looking forward to this learning experience, knowing that we will not get it right the first time, maybe not even the second time. With each action plan, we will improve the processes and the quality of commitments. Incorporating a novel concept such as the OGP into the reality of traditional public administrations is no overnight job. As director-general for the modernization and organization of public administration I have been part of these processes for decades. Together however, we can harness the OGP process to achieve better services and higher trust in government through transparency, participation and collaboration.

 

 

 

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