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Action plan – Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, 2021 – 2022



Action Plan: Action plan – Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, 2021 – 2022

Action Plan Submission: 2021
Action Plan End: January 2022

Lead Institution: Department of Finance



January 2022

Date Submitted

13th September 2021


The NI Government is committed to the values and principles of open government as stated in the Open Government Declaration and OGP’s principles.  Government works better for citizens when it’s transparent, accountable and participatory. Transparency involves opening government data and information in areas such as public spending, government contracts, policy impact and public service performance. Accountability requires rules, laws and mechanisms that ensure government listens, learns, responds and changes when needed. Participation empowers citizens by involving them in policy-making and decision-making.  Our commitment to open government is demonstrated through our participation in the UK’s 3rd and 4th National Action Plans and reinforced in the New Decade New Approach document. The Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) is committed to working across departmental boundaries and with civil society and external stakeholders to make information and data open by default where possible. It believes opening up government will strengthen democracy and putting people at the heart of its policies will create a government that works for everyone. It must include the voices of citizens in decision making through robust and clearly defined mechanisms.  Over the remaining term of this administration the NI government will work with partners representing civil society to produce an Open Government Strategy.  The aim is to create a solid foundation for promoting and delivering open government by defining co-creation and co-production processes to help develop future action plans. A programme of communication and education will be developed for NICS departments, benchmarking understanding of open government and seeking further buy-in from decision makers. This commitment has been agreed and co-created by the Open Government Implementation Group, comprising government representatives and the NI Open Government Network (an alliance of individual citizens and civil society groups).

Open Government Challenges, Opportunities and Strategic Vision

This subsection details the Open Government Strategic Vision in your local area that should guide the commitments for the action plan period.

What is the long-term vision for open government in your context and jurisdiction?

Our long term vision is that open government implementation will lead to:

  • Greater legitimacy and increased trust in government
  • Greater accessibility, responsiveness and accountability
  • Better policy – grounded in knowledge of public priorities and values
  • Shared responsibility – for policy creation, implementation and outcomes
  • Better informed, motivated and empowered citizens – who are able to influence decisions that affect their lives

As the remaining term of this mandate/administration is seven months (until March 2022), we are committing in this action plan to putting foundations and mechanisms in place to better facilitate future plans.

What are the achievements in open government to date (for example, recent open government reforms)?

Northern Ireland has taken part in two National Action Plans, delivering against 12 commitments and 54 milestone activities, including, transparency in government contracting; access to government land and property data; increasing the number and quality of open datasets released; improving transparency and public accountability; improving citizen participation and open policy making; developing open government skills across the public sector; increasing public sector innovation and promoting and encouraging the use of social innovation by the local public sector.

In addition Northern Ireland Government launched and is continuing to deliver against a Northern Ireland Open Data Strategy.  It has also produced a Code of Ethics for Minister’s and Special Advisers and in the spirit of openness and transparency publishes online, on a quarterly basis, Ministerial and Special Adviser external meetings, gifts and hospitality, declarations of interest and Ministers overseas travel. At the same time Permanent Secretary expenses, gifts and hospitality are also published.

What are the current challenges/areas for improvement in open government that the jurisdiction wishes to tackle?

To date Northern Ireland Government has participated in two National Action Plans.  While this is a solid basis for moving forward, a lack of early strategic direction has led to challenges around the longer term vision of this work and a lack of understanding of the values and benefits of open government. As a result we have not fully optimised buy-in to the process.

To address this and participate fully in OGP Local, an Open Government Strategy is required to provide a firm foundation, wider departmental and stakeholder buy-in, promote awareness and create a more definite strategic direction.  The wider co-creation process must also be better defined, agreed and documented appropriately.

What are the medium-term open government goals that the government wants to achieve?

The medium–term open government goals are to have a definitive strategic direction, defined through this open government strategy, and increased awareness and understanding, delivered via communications and education activity. We anticipate this will result in greater departmental buy-in to the open government agenda. This includes a clear co-creation process, involving a diverse range of stakeholders from both inside and outside government, to establish and develop future open government commitments.

How does this action plan contribute to achieve the Open Government Strategic Vision?

Over the next six months a Northern Ireland Open Government Strategy will be co-designed and co-produced with civil society and NICS departments.

Membership of the Open Government Implementation Group will be refreshed, where necessary; a survey of NICS staff will be carried out to gauge the level of awareness and understanding of open government and transparency; a communication plan will include bespoke communication, education and awareness activity to help boost understanding and seek to increase buy-in and ownership of open government.

This will ensure a solid foundation has been established, roles and responsibilities of key players are defined and documented; and staff are aware of and understand the open government agenda and how they can and should contribute. This work will better define the co-creation process that will be used to identify and generate commitments to future Local Action Plans.

How does the open government strategic vision contribute to the accomplishment of the current administration’s overall policy goals?

The current administration is committed to open government, as set out in the New Decade New Approach document.  This commitment from the very top of Northern Ireland Government will drive future action plans, ensure greater strategic direction, and help generate co-operation and buy-in from departments and stakeholders.  Future action plans will be linked to Northern Ireland’s Programme for Government and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Engagement and Coordination in the Open Government Strategic Vision and OGP Action Plan

Please list the lead institutions responsible for the implementation of this OGP action plan.

  • Department of Finance

What kind of institutional arrangements are in place to coordinate between government agencies and departments to implement the OGP action plan?

An Open Government Implementation Group (OGIG), is in place.  It consists of representatives from each of the nine NI government departments and from the NI Open Government Network which is an alliance of individual citizens and civil society groups.  This group meets quarterly and more frequently as required, and is responsible for promoting the principles of open government within departments and across civil society, actively contributing to the development of potential commitments for inclusion in current and future plans and overseeing the implementation of these commitments.

What kind of spaces have you used or created to enable the collaboration between government and civil society in the co-creation and implementation of this action plan? Mention both offline and online spaces.

Civil Society forms part of the Open Government Implementation Group (which also comprises NI Government departments) and as such has been included in all discussions and provided input in formulating the commitment. Given there are five months left in the government’s mandate, NI government will work closely with its partners in civil society to develop the strategy, meeting regularly in person and online to seek input, ideas and feedback, to ensure a collaborative approach is adopted.

What measures did you take to ensure diversity of representation (including vulnerable or marginalized populations) in these spaces?

Not applicable – This commitment relates to internal policies, processes and procedures

Who participated in these spaces?

The co-creation was delivered by a sub-group of the Open Government Implementation Group – this involved representatives from NICS and the NI Open Government Network.

The NI Open Government Network is an independent civil society network whose members comprise individual citizens interested in promoting open government, as well as representatives from local non-profit organisations working in fields such as environment, citizen participation, community development and philanthropy.

The Network was established in 2014 but became formally constituted as a Community Interest Company in 2019. It currently has a board of eight directors who set strategy in consultation with members and represent the Network in meetings with government, including through the OGIG. The Network also has one part-time employee through funding recently secured from the UK National Lottery Community Fund for its ‘Open Local Government – Creating Local Action Hubs’ project. The Network is affiliated with the UK Open Government Civil Society Network.

How many groups participated in these spaces?


How many public-facing meetings were held in the co-creation process?


How will government and non-governmental stakeholders continue to collaborate through the implementation of the action plan?

All government and non-governmental stakeholders will continue to collaborate via meetings and workshops (virtual or in person where allowed) to develop the Open Government strategy.  Communications will be developed to promote its launch and education and awareness activity will take place to help all stakeholders engage and provide meaningful and achievable commitments in future action plans

Please describe the independent Monitoring Body you have identified for this plan.

It is intended to establish an independent monitoring mechanism over the coming months.

Provide the contact details for the independent monitoring body.

To be determined.

What types of activities will you have in place to discuss progress on commitments with stakeholders?

Over the limited timescale for this action plan, stakeholders will be required to take part in:

  • OGIG meetings to discuss progress
  • workshops to help scope, develop and finalise our Open Government strategy including, delivering awareness and education activity

How will you regularly check in on progress with implementing agencies?

Departments are required to provide updates on their areas of responsibility within any commitments submitted, at quarterly OGIG meetings (currently taking place virtually).  Written submissions will also be commissioned on a quarterly basis and ad hoc meetings called as and when required.

How will you share the results of your monitoring efforts with the public?

The publication of an end of term assessment will be posted on the Department of Finance’s Open Government webpages.  It will also be shared with the Open Government Network that represents civil society, with a view to posting the assessment on its websites.

Endorsement from Non-Governmental Stakeholders

  • Paul Braithwaite, Acting Chair, OGN, NI Open Government Network
  • Rebekah McCabe, Director, NI Open Government Network
  • David McBurney, Director, NI Open Government Network

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