Open Government Standard and Dashboard (NL0036)
Action Plan: Netherlands Action Plan 2018-2020
Action Plan Cycle: 2018
Lead Institution: Possibly the province of Noord-Holland
Support Institution(s): The Dutch National Police (?) The Province of Zuid-Holland (?) The Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) (subject to approval by the general meeting of members of the VNG) VNG Realisatie (?) Municipalities (?) Open State Foundation (OSF)
Policy AreasAccess to Information, E-Government, Open Data, Right to Information
Open WOB: developing and implementing an Open WOB standard and an Open WOB dashboard
Start and end dates of the action point: 1 July 2018 - 30 June 2020
Main action owner (organisation) Possibly the province of Noord-Holland
Description of the action point
Note: the description below should be formulated such that its promotional effect will be increased.
Which social issue does the action point seek to address? Promoting openness and a transparent government by offering more insight into, and a better understanding of, requests under the Dutch Open Government Act (Wet Openbaarheid van Bestuur - WOB), both as regards content and the procedures followed.
What is the action point? At least ten government organisations should implement Open WOB.
How will the action point contribute to remedying the social issue? The main goal of the action point is to increase transparency by the participating government organisations regarding requests for information, and the decisions following such requests, as well as their usability.
Pro-actively and accessibly publishing decisions to WOB requests will contribute to a transparent government and may contribute to reducing the number of WOB requests.
The Open WOB dashboard will make WOB documents available in an easy to search manner, supplemented by visualisations or graphs with the number of WOB requests, the term and the option to set notifications. Furthermore, the WOB documents will also be made accessible as open data via the Open Wob API, thus making the information suitable for reuse as well. This will also promote customer friendliness and improve service provision and it will contribute to a more open attitude of government organisations.
Why is this action point relevant to OGP values? Open WOB will contribute to a more transparent government by making any government information that has been requested before accessible to everyone, and by improving the quality of the information by improving the opportunities to search and find information.
Additional information The participating government organisations which are going to apply Open WOB will arrange the budgets and human resources needed for this.
Milestone with a verifiable result (please note: SMART) Start date: End date:
Note 1: it should be considered whether a further distinction should be made between real-life trials with a limited group of government organisations and the follow-up step of scaling up.
Note 2: it should be considered whether a distinction should be made between only joining the standard or joining both the standard and the dashboard.
Action plan established 01 September 2018
Recruitment and assembly of a leading group of government organisations that will implement Open WOB in their own organisations 01 October 2018
Drafting a standard (taking into account the different types of data) for access to WOB documents being provided by the Open State Foundation (OSF) and the leading group of government organisations in conjunction with VNG Realisatie and others 31 December 2018
Establishing a standard with VNG Realisatie and others 31 December 2018
Recruiting at least 10 government organisations in order to generate data and make it accessible in accordance with the standard 31 December 2019
Developing the technical part of Open WOB in order to support authorities, the standard, and the uploading of data from their sources at the authorities by OSF 01 July 2019 Friday 31 December 2019
Entering into a Service Level Agreement and adding at least 10 government organisations for the security, management, and hosting of the platform 01 March 2020
Assuring the management function and advice about scaling up by ……….. 01 January 2020 30 June 2020
Name of the responsible person representing the main action owner
Position, organisational unit
Email and phone number
Other actors involved Authorities involved The Dutch National Police (?)
The Province of Zuid-Holland (?)
The Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) (subject to approval by the general meeting of members of the VNG)
VNG Realisatie (?)
Other organisations or bodies (such as community organisations or the private sector) Open State Foundation (OSF)
IRM Midterm Status Summary
5. Open WOB: developing and implementing an Open WOB standard and an Open WOB dashboard
Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan:
At least ten government organisations should implement Open WOB. 
5.1. Action plan established.
5.2. Recruitment and assembly of a leading group of government organisations that will implement Open WOB in their own organisations.
5.3. Drafting a standard (taking into account the different types of data) for access to WOB documents being provided by the Open State Foundation (OSF) and the leading group of government organisations in conjunction with VNG Realisatie and others.
5.4. Establishing a standard with VNG Realisatie and others.
5.5. Recruiting at least 10 government organisations in order to generate data and make it accessible in accordance with the standard.
5.6. Developing the technical part of Open WOB in order to support authorities, the standard, and the uploading of data from their sources at the authorities by OSF.
5.7. Entering into a Service Level Agreement and adding at least 10 government organisations for the security, management, and hosting of the platform.
5.8. Assuring the management function and advice about scaling up by ……
Start Date: September 2018
End Date: June 2020
Context and Objectives
Freedom of information is currently regulated in the Netherlands by the Transparency of Administration Act (Wet openbaarheid bestuur – Wob). The law governs both active and passive public access to information. 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. In recent years, the law has been subject to much political debate because it is outdated and its applicability on modern media/information carriers is not always clear. In addition, it was possible to abuse the instrument by requesting public information for purposes other than obtaining the public information (monetary gain, frustrating a traffic fine, etc.), which led to a change in applicable laws in 2016, namely abandoning fines for not responding in time to Wob requests. 
The law is the most used instrument available to citizens, journalists, and/or activists to probe both the national and local government for specific information. The law also provides for redress, so that if a government body refuses to disclose certain information, one can litigate to try to get the information. This aspect of the law is frequently used by activists and journalists and means its legal interpretation and jurisprudence is continuously evolving.
Wob requests are addressed to the authority/unit deemed to be in the possession of the requested information. As such, a baseline on the total amount of Wob requests at the local level is unavailable. Various parts of the same local government (i.e. a municipality) can be addressed (also simultaneously) and get involved in the management of a Wob request. As such, it is also not clear whether specific information had already been disclosed under an earlier Wob procedure. Importantly, the Wob is scheduled to be replaced by the Woo (see Section II: Country Context in this report), which will retain these functions but, at the same time, the government is required to make significantly more information proactively available. The way the government information is stored and archived is important for the smooth and efficient management of Wob (and future Woo) procedures. Currently, this is done mostly digitally through so-called document management systems (DMS).
Against this backdrop, the Province of Noord-Holland, in collaboration with the Open State Foundation and VNG realisatie, aim to spearhead the development and implementation of an Open WoB standard and dashboard. This commitment has clear and verifiable milestones that aim to establish a pioneering group that could pilot the implementation of the standard (milestone 5.2), to outline technical requirements for such a standard (5.3) with a view to ultimately roll the standard out to more organizations on a new, open-source platform. This work is relevant to the OGP values of access to information and, depending on how comprehensive the platform will be, to technology and innovation for transparency and accountability.
The main goal of this commitment is to improve government transparency regarding requests for information by proactively publishing decisions to Wob requests on the new dashboard. This commitment could produce meaningful insights into what the various data standards are and where they are different. However, it is uncertain if other municipalities will use this model. DMS systems are at the core of this work and are often commercial products developed by market players with extensive experience in such implementation. These players appear to not be formally consulted in this work. As such, there is a risk of following a self-appointed course without having made sure that such experience and insights are accounted for, or future compatibility and system inter-operability are coordinated with the providers of DMS infrastructure.
An additional challenge is answering the question for whom this is a useful database, and what lessons were learnt from previous initiatives (such as bigwobber). End-users have only been marginally consulted. One interviewed expert argued that journalists and activists are probably not interested in such a dashboard, as long as there is no link to the legal reality, for instance, with data on how the procedure went, if there was an appeal, or in what instance and what legal deliberations the court had.  In conversations with government representatives, it also appeared that this commitment could have a secondary effect of reducing the number of Wob requests, which place significant strains on (local) authorities’ resources.  However, due to the technical nature of the work and limited capacity to resolve that in a pilot without significant resources and private sector involvement, coupled with limited consultations with envisioned end-users, the commitment’s potential impact is considered minor.
Given this context, the IRM researcher recommends the following:
- Flesh out a baseline study and set clear deliverables for the overall objectives in order to recognize possible diverging agendas, manage expectations, and create clarity about the value added of the work for different stakeholders.
- Reconsider engaging in this field in its current form, only continue the networking on data standards and DMS systems compatibility at a central level (and include private sector parties here), while keeping current players informed.
- Only consider the launch of a new dashboard if there is a demonstrated demand for such a tool expressed by end-users such as activists, (local or investigative) journalists, researchers, lawyers in FoI litigation, etc.
- Broaden the group that is consulted in this work and reach out to relevant parts of the judiciary (for instance, magistrates or their interest groups dealing with Wob).
- Consider a more general inquiry on the practice of freedom of information in a European, comparative perspective. Examine if the general Dutch view on necessary resources (staff, budget) are enough to carry out the function and ambition of the law.
 The complete text of this commitment, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Netherlands_Action-Plan_2018-2020_EN.pdf
 Interview with Roger Vleugels, 26 November 2019.
 Interview with Jamil Jawad (VNG), 3 October 2019.
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