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Publish complaints about public services as open data (NL0051)



Action Plan: Netherlands Action Plan 2020-2022

Action Plan Cycle: 2020

Status: Active


Lead Institution: Open State Foundation

Support Institution(s): Other Actors Involved State actors involved National and Local Ombudsmannen Local municipalities the Association of Netherlands Municipalities Realisation Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations CSOs, private sector, multilate rals, working groups Open State Foundation Pathfinders for Justice, NYU-CIC

Policy Areas

Access to Information, E-Government, Justice, Open Data, Open Justice, Sustainable Development Goals

IRM Review

IRM Report: Netherlands Action Plan Review 2020-2022

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Pending IRM Review

Potential Impact: Pending IRM Review

Implementation i

Completion: Pending IRM Review


What is the public problem that the commitment will address? Global data shows that one in five justice problems that people face relates to accessing public services (Justice for All report). In the Netherlands, this led to a total of 30.775 complaints received by the Dutch National Ombudsman in 2019. Since these are second line complaints, this number represents the tip of the iceberg of the everyday problems that people encounter in their interactions with public services. Common issues include difficulty obtaining identification documents or permits, accessing education or health care; problems with the police, immigration services, tax authorities and the provision of social benefits. The most prominent recent case in the Netherlands is the child benefits scandal, in which a group of parents were wrongly ordered to pay back thousands of euros in benefits. Most of the families affected had ethnic minority backgrounds, suffered grave financial and emotional consequences and had to wait years for a solution. To resolve problems related to accessing public services, It is important to establish effective complaints mechanisms. This provides meaningful access to justice and it enables the authorities to address grievances and resolve problems early on rather than letting them fester. As a feedback mechanism, it also provides valuable insights about how people experience procedures and interactions and what works to solve their justice problems. With the complexity of bureaucracy continually increasing, complaints give information that helps identify bottlenecks and obstacles that people face in real life. Addressing these can help deliver fair outcomes, both at the individual level and for society as a whole. Open access to complaints data can ensure that public systems and institutions work for people and are equipped to respond to their needs and problems. It can help systems and institutions improve their operations, and compare their own performance with results of others to spark learning and exchange. In addition journalists, academics, interest groups and civil society organisations can better play their role as public watchdogs and help identify and solve issues. They can also analyse patterns of exclusion and structural injustices. In short, public data on complaints can provide a powerful mechanism for feedback and learning to build better public services for all.

What is the commitment? Long term objective: The long term goal of this project is to realise 100% publication, by 2025, of complaints about public services as open data and based on a common standard, throughout the Netherlands, by the Dutch National Ombudsman, local Ombuds institutes and all other public entities that have complaints mechanisms, in line with the new Open Government Act. Commitments (detailed in next section): Within the 2 year lifespan of this project all involved stakeholders commit to: 1. Creating an inclusive consortium that commits to realising the long term objective; 2. Developing an semantic ‘Complaints Open Data Standard’ for the publication of data about complaints; 3. Testing and applying the ‘Complaints Open Data Standard’ on complaints received by the National Ombudsman and three local Ombuds institutes (to be confirmed but ideally the Ombudsman of The Hague, Rotterdam and Amsterdam), as well as one or two public entities that deal with first line complaints. 4. Conduct at least one pilot exercise, focused on a specific and relevant common justice problem that people face, to analyse and learn from the data and develop and implement improvements in public service delivery based on the insights achieved. Expected results: Through the publication of complaints as open data, this project will help public authorities to better understand what justice problems people have and how they are best resolved. Through open data on complaints, governments are in the position to learn and take measures to prevent new justice problems from occurring. Outside actors, such as academics, journalists and interest groups, will be able to contribute with analysis and propositions for improvements based on the publicly available data. Per commitment we expect the following results: 1. Structural collaboration between all relevant stakeholders, required to realise the long term objective. 2. Harmonised and standardised publication of open data on complaints all over the Netherlands. 3. Publication of complaints as open data during the project. 4. Create measurable improvement in people’s access to public services in at least one specific area. 5. Development of concrete best practices, cases and examples that can be used to showcase the need and benefits of the publication of complaints as open data.

How will the commitment contribute to solving the public problem? Establishment of the Consortium and Public Commitment to publishing complaints as open data By bringing the National Ombudsman, three local Ombuds institutes, Pathfinders for Justice, NYU-CIC and the Open State Foundation 33 together, this project ensures that all required parties are involved to realise this objective. Through the public statement we ensure commitment and public attention for the action. It will be investigated how the Association of Netherlands Municipalities Realisation can best be involved in the process, for example as an active participant or as a silent partner. Definition of the ‘Complaints Open Data Standard and Technical Requirements’ This standard focuses on the disclosure of procedural information (is the complaint being treated), metadata (definition of complaints, categorisation of topic area and type of complaint, etc.) and demographic data. Through this Standard, complaints can be analyzed and compared and used to create solutions. The standard will be created in such a way that both meaningful quantitative and qualitative analysis of complaints is possible. Civil society can play a better role as a watchdog and public authorities can structurally learn and take measures to build better public services for all. This Standard will be aligned with the requirements of the PLOOI platform (a central government-owned Platform for Open Government Information). This platform will be used to publish open data about complaints in the Netherlands. Complaints published as open data by the National Ombudsman and 3 local Ombuds institutes The actual process of publishing complaints as open data helps us to address the tension between standardisation and the need for customization. Standardisation of data about complaints will have to be done in such a way to allow for proper inclusion of exceptional cases and should allow for analysis of exclusions, for example of marginalized groups. As described earlier, through the publication this project will also create best practices, lessons learnt, cases and examples that can be used to showcase the need for and benefits of publishing complaints as open data. Pilot exercise from data to better public services Early on the project will work on the identification and analysis of one specific and relevant common justice problem that people face, and using the complaints data to drive improvement. This will provide early learning opportunities to tweak the data standard and better understand how to structure data to support learning and actual improvements. It will encourage others to start using the data and the pilot will also serve as an illustrative example to win over other partners / complaint handlers and share experiences internationally.

Why is this commitment relevant to OGP values? This commitment will disclose significantly more information about complaints than is currently available in the public domain. By developing a standard that can be applied throughout the Netherlands and across public entities, the commitment also contributes to improving the quality of the information available. The commitment therefore greatly contributes to transparency. The commitment creates new opportunities for the public to inform or influence decisions. It enables academics, journalists, interest groups and civil society organisations to identify bottlenecks and obstacles as 34 well as patterns of exclusion and/or discrimination. In that sense the commitment is relevant to civic participation. Lastly the commitment targets structural improvements of public services and therefore the prevention of people’s justice problems. Better understanding the issues people face and analysis of the complaints data will inform public debate based on the evidence of people’s lived experience. This is a basis for influencing government officials and ultimately holding them accountable for their actions. In that sense the commitment is relevant to public accountability.

Additional information Commitment budget:  The National Ombudsman already committed to participation in the project at own costs  The Pathfinders for Justice team at NYU-CIC will have an advisory role, also at own costs. Links to other Dutch government programs:  Realisation of the The Open Government Act (Wet Open Overheid or WOO) that succeeds the Freedom of Information Action (Wet Openbaarheid Bestuur or WOB) Links to the National development plan or other sectoral / local plans:  all public entities in the Netherlands are expected to soon be confronted with the legal obligation of publishing data about complaints Links to other relevant plans, such as a National Development Plan or an Anti-Corruption Strategy Link to the Sustainable Development Goals: This commitment has a direct link with and makes an important contribution to SDG16 and the goal of providing equal access to justice for all. The Netherlands was a co-chair of the Task Force on Justice, which set out an agenda for action to achieve equal access to justice for all. This commitment seeks to contribute to resolving and preventing justice problems, one fifth of which are related to accessing public services as global data shows. The agenda for action includes efforts to empower people and communities, provide people-centered justice services and achieve fair outcomes, all of which will be supported by this commitment. Milestone Activity with a verifiable deliverable Start Date: End Date: Establishment of the Consortium (at project start) 05-01-2021 28-02-2021 Public Commitment to publish complaints as open data (after 3 months) 05-01-2021 28-02-2021 Definition of the Complaints Open Data Standard (after year 1) 28-02-2021 31-12-2021 Sharing of experiences in international fora such as: - the HLPF in New York in July 2021 (review of SDG16) - the UN Global Data Forum in October 2021 in Bern - the OGP Summit in Seoul in December 2021 - the IOI world conference 2021/2022. 01-05-2021 31-12-2022 35 Technical Requirements for the PLOOI Platform (after year 1) 05-01-2022 31-12-2022 Application of the Complaints Open Data Standard with 3 local governments (project end) 05-01-2022 31-12-2022


Open Government Partnership