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Netherlands

Open Local Decision-Making (NL0032)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Netherlands Action Plan 2018-2020

Action Plan Cycle: 2018

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Province of Zuid-Holland and/or VNG

Support Institution(s): Province of Utrecht Province of Noord-Holland Province of Limburg Province of Flevoland VNG and VNG Realisatie Open State Foundation (OSF)

Policy Areas

Access to Information, Capacity Building, E-Government, Local Commitments, Open Data

IRM Review

IRM Report: Netherlands Design Report 2018-2020

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Major Major

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Public Accountability

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Open decision-making at municipalities and provinces
Start and end dates of the action point:1 July 2018 - 30 June 2020
Main action owner (organisation) Province of Zuid-Holland and/or VNG
Description of the action point
Which social issue does the action point seek to address? • A transparent government and the accessibility of information from the authorities are very important in a democracy. This enables citizens and society to both inform and monitor the government, and also to participate actively. It strengthens the connection between citizens and the public administration.
• Municipal and Provincial Council decisions are recorded as Municipal Council Information (Raadsinformatie) and Provincial Council Information (Stateninformatie). The information recorded consists of motions, agendas and proposals. To strengthen transparency and local democracy, this information must be available in a standardised manner as open data.
• If information is not provided in a standardised manner, it is not easy to carry out targeted searches for information or compare information about the same subject at different municipalities and provinces. As a result, information about local government decisions is not easily accessible and can be difficult to compare.
What is the action point? • The Open State Foundation (OSF) has been working with the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) and the Ministry of the Interior (BZK) to release Municipal Council Information from more than 100 municipalities as open data since 2013. A standard for making this information uniformly available as open data is in its completion stage. This is an action point from the Dutch national Action Plan for Open Government for January 2016 – June 2018.
• In the first six months of 2018, five Dutch provinces made their Provincial Council Information available as open data. More provinces now wish to join this initiative and provide access to Provincial Council Information as standardised open data.
• Provinces want to make their Provincial Council Information more easily accessible to strengthen the democratic process. This action point intends to have provinces make their Provincial Council Information available according to a standard that is similar to the standard that has been developed for municipalities. This serves local residents, community organisations, intermediaries and the media. Since it involves the same type of information and the same suppliers, an intergovernmental standard should be prepared for Open Decision-making.
• Open Decision-making will enable all kinds of different parties to create applications that will contribute to participation, transparency or accountability by reusing data.
• And furthermore, it will make it easier for elected representatives to search in their own and other representatives' documents.
How will the action point contribute to remedying the social issue? The development of an intergovernmental standard for providing access to Open Municipal Council Information and Open Provincial Council Information, and making this decision-making information available as open data such that it is reliable and reusable and can be compared to other data will contribute to a transparent government and the accessibility of government information. This will enable citizens and media to monitor the government and it will give citizens and community organisations a better information position for active participation.

Why is this action point relevant to OGP values? The action point is relevant to several OGP values.
• It will contribute to more information being released, to a better quality of the information that is released, and to the information becoming more easily accessible to the public. It will thus contribute to more transparency.
• For municipalities, the experience with the action point from 2016-2018 has shown that, based on information that was released in an open data format and according to a uniform standard, interesting applications which contribute to participation and public accountability have been developed, such as http://www.waaroverheid.nl. It is expected that the opportunities of reuse will increase as the number of participating authorities increases and more information is standardised.
Additional information • VNG and the participating provinces have provided budget for developing, implementing, and managing the standard and providing information according to this standard.
• In the interest of both the ease of use for the public and efficiency (suppliers), this standard will be developed in conjunction with the VNG and the standard for Open Municipal Council Information.
Milestone with a verifiable result (please note: SMART) Start date: End date:

• The leading group of participating provinces will release Provincial Council Information based on the current Popolo standard.
• Development of the search engine for Open Provincial Council Information, based on Open Raad API and the Open Raad search engine
• Since early 2018, more than 100 Dutch municipalities have provided access to their municipal council information as open data, using an initial standard. VNG Realisatie will finalise the standard on Open Municipal Council Information and will enter into agreements with suppliers as to the implementation of this standard. As the same time, VNG Realisatie will be conducting an impact analysis together with KOOP for assuring the project as regards governance, the funding model, the management of standards, and its infrastructure. April 2018 01 July 2018
• Education and scaling up to other provinces.
• VNG Realisatie will finalise the information analysis with KOOP and will propose an action plan to inter-governmentally safeguard and scale up Open Decision-making and will also start implementing the approved plan for scaling up.
• Expansion of the Open Municipal Council Information standard to a definitive intergovernmental standard for Open Decision-making in conjunction with the VNG. 01 July 2018 31 December 2018
• Organisation of app challenge in the run-up to the Provincial Council elections in 2019 (March). 01 November 2018 Friday 01 March 2019
• Intergovernmental assurance of the project, standard and infrastructure.
• Scaling up to all 12 provinces and 380 municipalities].
• Note: Other authorities, such as water authorities and community schemes, are free to join this action point. 01 July 2018 Friday 01 July 2020
Contact information
Name of the responsible person representing the main action owner Pm [Henk Burgering for the time being], Province of Zuid-Holland and/or VNG
Position, organisational unit
Email and phone number
Other actors involved Authorities involved Province of Utrecht
Province of Noord-Holland
Province of Limburg
Province of Flevoland
VNG and VNG Realisatie

Other organisations or bodies (such as community organisations or the private sector) Open State Foundation (OSF)

IRM Midterm Status Summary

1. Open decision-making at municipalities and provinces

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan:

  1. The Open State Foundation (OSF) has been working with the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) and the Ministry of the Interior (BZK) to release Municipal Council Information from more than 100 municipalities as open data since 2013. A standard for making this information uniformly available as open data is in its completion stage. This is an action point from the Dutch national Action Plan for Open Government for January 2016 – June 2018.
  2. In the first six months of 2018, five Dutch provinces made their Provincial Council Information available as open data. More provinces now wish to join this initiative and provide access to Provincial Council Information as standardised open data.
  3. Provinces want to make their Provincial Council Information more easily accessible to strengthen the democratic process. This action point intends to have provinces make their Provincial Council Information available according to a standard that is similar to the standard that has been developed for municipalities. This serves local residents, community organisations, intermediaries and the media. Since it involves the same type of information and the same suppliers, an intergovernmental standard should be prepared for Open Decision-making.
  4. Open Decision-making will enable all kinds of different parties to create applications that will contribute to participation, transparency or accountability by reusing data.
  5. And furthermore, it will make it easier for elected representatives to search in their own and other representatives' documents. [1]

Milestones

1.1. The leading group of participating provinces will release Provincial Council Information based on the current Popolo standard.

  1. Development of the search engine for Open Provincial Council Information, based on Open Raad API and the Open Raad search engine
  2. Since early 2018, more than 100 Dutch municipalities have provided access to their municipal council information as open data, using an initial standard. VNG Realisatie will finalise the standard on Open Municipal Council Information and will enter into agreements with suppliers as to the implementation of this standard. As the same time, VNG Realisatie will be conducting an impact analysis together with KOOP for assuring the project as regards governance, the funding model, the management of standards, and its infrastructure.

1.2. Education and scaling up to other provinces.

  1. VNG Realisatie will finalise the information analysis with KOOP and will propose an action plan to intergovernmentally safeguard and scaleup Open Decision-making and will also start implementing the approved plan for scaling up.
  2. Expansion of the Open Municipal Council Information standard to a definitive intergovernmental standard for Open Decision-making in conjunction with the VNG.

1.3. Organisation of app challenge in the run-up to the Provincial Council elections in 2019 (March).

1.4 Intergovernmental assurance of the project, standard and infrastructure. Scaling up to all 12 provinces and 380 municipalities

Note: Other authorities, such as water authorities and community schemes, are free to join this action point.

Start Date: July 2018     

End Date: July 2020

Context and Objectives

Over the years, Dutch governance has become more decentralized, with the sub-state levels (currently 12 provinces and 355 municipalities) gaining increased responsibility over vast areas of government competence, such as employment, housing, local infrastructure, and welfare. The Municipalities Act (Gemeentewet) and Provinces Act (Provinciewet) stipulate that council decisions should be made public via the ‘usual’ way, without specifying how precisely such disclosure should take place. In practice, many municipalities disclose council decisions via pdfs on their websites, though not in a uniform and consolidated format. The law does not require other information, such as meeting agendas, meeting minutes, etc., to be made public. In addition, both laws provide a mechanism for local authorities to designate certain meetings, as well as the minutes of such meetings, as secret until further notice.

At the same time, the Netherlands has legislation on the freedom of information - the

Transparency of Administration Act (Wet openbaarheid bestuur – Wob). The law governs both active and passive public access to information. Under the law, anyone can demand the disclosure of information related to administrative matters, provided the information can be found in ‘documents’ that are in the possession of an administrative authority. Disclosure can be denied under certain conditions, for instance, if it would endanger the security of the state or reveal sensitive commercial information, as well as when it is deemed to endanger the unity of the crown. [2] In 2012, parliament adopted a draft law to replace the above-mentioned legislation on freedom of information. [3] The draft law (Wet open overheid – Woo) will introduce new regulations, including standard disclosure of various local government information, such as documents pertaining to local council meetings.

This commitment continues from a commitment in the second action plan (2016-2018), which aimed to commission a pilot whereby local council information would be shared in a standardized, machine-readable format. [4] The commitment is clear about the broader societal relevance and how such information can help strengthen the transparency and general connection between citizens and public administration. The planned activities are specific and verifiable. The first milestone, for instance, describes what data standard will be used (Popolo) as well as the goal. Milestone 1.4 mentions the need to increase the reach of this project to all municipalities by the end of 2020. The commitment is therefore relevant to the OGP value of access to information.

Upcoming legislation (Woo) could resolve one of the challenges identified in an earlier IRM report, namely the difficulty of making sure all municipalities take part. Explicitly linking the commitment to the Woo would be helpful, as the draft legislation provides a legal framework that was deemed absent, and (with time) could secure each municipality’s participation in the proposed work.

Earlier stakeholders such as the ‘Vereniging van Griffiers’ (the Dutch association for municipal registrars) appear to be either no longer or less formally involved. As one of the key (end)users of such new databases, it is unclear whether prospective future users have been properly consulted in order to secure their early buy-in and readiness to adopt the standard. For the high ambition to become reality, thousands of civil servants will likely need to be trained in new digital tools and systems, and possibly change the way they enter data and/or manage their processes. However, considering its planned ambition, the commitment’s potential impact could be transformative.

Next steps

The IRM researcher recommends retaining the current level of ambition while better accounting for possible technical issues, staff turnover, and the absence of political leadership. In addition, it would be worth considering broadening the group of stakeholders, re-including the association of registrars, and reaching out to local citizen groups to seek their input. This would be important for assessing the needs for improving skills and capacities among various user-groups early on.

In addition, the IRM researcher learned from several interviewees that there is a significant role for a select group of IT companies that provide the digital tools for these databases. Financial matters aside (the changes and development of these new tools will require resources), it is unclear how this may impact the eventual roll-out of the new standards, and whether specific IT risks such as system inter-operability need to be addressed. Some stakeholders mentioned to the IRM researcher that clients (local authorities) could leverage their relationship with these providers to secure their commitment for efficient and cost-effective development of new IT tools. The IRM researcher concurs with this assessment and also recommends that not only costs should be kept in check, but financial gains also made clear as much as possible. Such an approach could demonstrate that transparency is not a cause in itself but can help to make government more efficient and lower its operating costs. These considerations currently appear not to be fully captured in the design of the commitment.

Finally, information is only useful when its consumers are well aware of the value of the disclosed information. Not everybody has an intimate understanding of the local decision-making process or knows the difference between a motion and an amendment, how they are adopted or rejected, what limitations there are, etc. The IRM researcher therefore recommends seeking early collaborations and synergies with institutions such as ProDemos, or “Lokaal” to investigate the use of these data for educational purposes.

[1] The complete text of this commitment, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Netherlands_Action-Plan_2018-2020_EN.pdf

[2] https://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR0005252/2018-07-28/#HoofdstukV_Artikel10

[3] https://www.tweedekamer.nl/kamerstukken/wetsvoorstellen/detail?id=2012Z14073&dossier=33328

[4] Commitment 6, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Netherlands_NAP-Appendix_2016-2018_EN_revised-with-changes.pdf


Commitments

Open Government Partnership