Strengthen the Accountability of the Seoul Metropolitan Government by Sharing Public Information with Its Citizens in a Timely and Swift Manner. (SEO0002)
Action Plan: Seoul, Korea Action Plan
Action Plan Cycle: 2017
Lead Institution: NA
Support Institution(s): All departments within the Seoul Metropolitan Government; Open Net, INDILAB and C.O.D.E
Policy AreasE-Government, Fiscal Transparency, Public Participation, Subnational
Issue to be Addressed: Public information which includes main policy indexes and progress on city projects is provided to citizens partially and separately, making it difficult to see from a comprehensive and diverse perspective. Policy progress information is open to citizens through various white papers and city websites, but finding proper information which citizens need is difficult, thus the need for organizing and visualizing data has emerged. Currently, the form of citizen participation is mostly limited to making civil complaints and suggestions. In order to encourage the citizens to more actively participate in policy-making based on public information, the Seoul Metropolitan Government needs to provide structuralized, seamless and accessible public information to its citizens. Primary Objective: The Seoul Metropolitan Government aggregates administrative data that is fragmentarily scattered across departments, and then it structuralizes and visualizes the data to help its citizens to understand the work of the Seoul Metropolitan Government better, thus increasing its transparency and accountability. Short Description: Agree on what types of data set to open with CSOs and ways of communicating with them. Consult with CSOs about open data sets, items, update frequency and agree on ways of communicating with them for further improvement. Agree on data visualization types and channels to provide the seamless and visualized data to citizens. Decide whether selected data will be visualized as chart, map, figure or infographic, and find consensus on how they will be opened and which channel they will be opened through. Visualizing data and open it to citizens. Develop content in the form of agreed visualization formats and open them to citizens through agreed channel. OGP Challenge: Structuralize and visualize the data which is necessary to understand the work of the Seoul Metropolitan Government and provide the data through a dashboard. Increase the transparency and accountability of the Seoul Metropolitan Government by making a citizen feedback system.
IRM End of Term Status Summary
2. Strengthen the accountability of the Seoul Metropolitan Government by sharing public information with its citizens in a timely and swift manner.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government aggregates administrative data that is fragmentarily scattered across departments, and then it structuralizes and visualizes the data to help its citizens to understand the work of the Seoul Metropolitan Government better, thus increasing its transparency and accountability.
- Agree on what types of data set to open with CSOs and ways of communicating with them.
- Consult with CSOs about open data sets, items, update frequency and agree on ways of communicating with them for further improvement.
- Agree on data visualization types and channels to provide the seamless and visualized data to citizens.
- Decide whether selected data will be visualized as chart, map, figure or infographic, and find consensus on how they will be opened and which channel they will be opened through.
- Visualizing data and open it to citizens.
- Develop content in the form of agreed visualization formats and open them to citizens through agreed channel.
1. Agree on what types of data set to open with CSOs and ways of communicating with them.
2. Agree on data visualization types and channels to provide the visualized and seamless data to citizens.
3. Visualizing data and opening it to citizens.
Overall Objective & Relevance
This second commitment of Seoul’s action plan, addresses the need to increase the publication of government data relevant for CSOs and to ease its access for citizens. According to the action plan, public information on the SMG’s various policy indexes and projects has been provided in a disorderly and unsystematic manner. The Government believes that this limits citizen participation in policy-making processes, considering that they are only able to passively make complaints or suggestions.
Therefore, the objective of this commitment is to consult and agree with CSOs on how to aggregate, structuralize and visualize administrative data to help its citizens to understand the work of the SMG, thus increasing transparency and accountability. The SMG has planned a series of activities to reach this goal, including reaching consensus with CSOs on (1) what types of data sets to disclose (2) how to do so and (3) how to improve data visualization types and channels prior to sharing them with citizens.
This commitment is relevant to three of the OGP values, access to information, civic participation and technology and innovation for transparency. It means to increase and improve access to government data through a mechanism that can allow better visualization and structure. Additionally, it provides CSOs an opportunity to engage with governments with the aim of agreeing upon data that should be made public, according to their needs. While the SMG claims that the commitment will increase public officials’ accountability, as stated defined by the IRM, only releasing information to citizens with no explicit feedback mechanism in place calling upon governments to justify their actions upon citizen criticism or request, is not relevant to public accountability. Finally, out of five OGP Grand Challenges, this commitment addresses the challenge No. 1 “Improving Public Services”.
Specificity and Potential Impact
The IRM researcher evaluates this commitment to be of low specificity. The objective of providing structuralized data and promoting collaboration with CSOs in decision making is greatly ambitious, however it does not clearly provide a specific roadmap to achieve it. It also says that all departments across SMG will be involved in this endeavor; however, more explicit details should be added, such as specific division of works and clear work plan. In addition, it is hard to say that the activities are measurable in a clear and objective way to track progress during the year of implementation. The commitment does not provide clear expectations of what type of data should be published, what format will the discussions with CSOs take, which organizations would be invited to participate, among other key details.
NGOs like Open Net Korea, working at the national level on free speech, open government and other issues, have reported the adverse effect of undisclosed data on citizens’ lives. For instance, in 2014, the Seoul’s Transport Operation and Information Service Center stopped sharing train arrival times. Numerous apps that provided citizens real-time data were unable to continue operating. This decision was later reversed due to insistence from the public. “Seoul Subway Train Arrival Time Info is Public Data, not Owned by Anyone!” Open Net Korea, 18 March 2014, http://opennetkorea.org/en/wp/856 This article by Mr. Park Jihwan is an example from 2014 when the SMG put a ban to the use of real-time train arrival data for public and revoked its decision. Issues like these could be prevented if the government offered CSOs a seat at the table to decide which data sets should be accessible and in what format. If this commitment was fully implemented, Seoul citizens could have a mechanism to influence decisions on the publication of data. Additionally, the commitment could allow citizens to more easily understand data sets and information, not through reports and papers, but through a visualized format, enabling them to more actively participate and raise their voice in the decision-making processes. For this reason, the IRM researcher considers this commitment to have a moderate potential impact, because it could significantly change the way citizens engage on this issue. However, because of the lack of specificity, it is difficult to read whether it could transform the status quo.
The status of completion for commitment #2 is overall substantial.
Milestone #1, “Agree on what types of data set to open with CSOs and ways of communicating with them,” was completed on time. The evidence is recorded on the 2nd consultative group meeting on 22 March 2017 where the types of data and ways of communication are agreed on and decided. The progress is recorded on the Seoul’s OGP website. http://ogp.seoul.go.kr/sub03-1#list/2 For example….
Milestone #2, “Agree on data visualization types and channels to provide the seamless and visualized data to citizens,” was completed. The evidence is again recorded on the commitment sub-group’s meeting minutes which took place on 1 November 2017 where data visualization types and channels were decided upon. Ibid. For example… Its completion was delayed from its original expected date of July to November 2017. It was delayed due to the increasing needs for additional data analysis such as status data and analysis data such as disaster safety. The reason for delay also includes additional requests for citizen feedback on the shared contents on the dashboard that led to the extension of project period in which the relevant departments had to consult with each other and work on the further development of the dashboard.
Milestone #3, “Visualizing data and open it to citizens,” saw substantial progress. This milestone was still underway by the time the implementation period ended. The dashboard was functioning and operational to visualize the data sets on issues pertaining to various areas of citizens’ daily lives from traffic to emergency information. The IRM researcher confirmed that by December 2017, the SMG data website had created a space for stakeholders to upload data for it to be processed for better visualization. The site is currently active and has multiple data sets available. SMG Data website with data visualization platform: https://data.seoul.go.kr/visual/
Early results: did it open government?
Access to information: Major
Civic Participation: Marginal
With the goal of working together with CSOs to provide information in an easy-to-visualize way, three milestones were to be finished by April, July and December 2017. As mentioned above, in the potential impact section, the commitment aimed for Seoul citizens to be able to more easily understand various data and information, not through reports and papers, but through a visualized format, enabling them to check on relevant real-time data. The implementation of this commitment led to a significant change in government practice. The new system is up and shares real-time data that, prior to the action plan, was only available to the mayor. The government has opened government-held, confidential data that was exclusively reported to the mayor and made now available to citizens.
SMG now discloses more information and improved the way the relevant data is being shown to the citizens with data visualization. The IRM researcher considers that use of technology and innovation to improve access to information is visible and effective.
The early outcome of this commitment also received a very positive media review. Susan Crawford from the Harvard Law School visited the Seoul City’s “Digital Office for Citizens and Mayor Platform” and stated that: “What’s new is that Seoul is also measuring and reporting on—in real time—a wide range of other indicators of the city’s health and well-being.” Referring to the dashboard, she further noted, “It was opened for the mayor to view in May 2017, and much of this information will be also made available to citizens by the end of the year. The government is committed to opening up its data.” “How Seoul is Reinventing Itself as a Techno-Utopia,” Wired, 6 September 2017, https://www.wired.com/story/how-seoul-is-reinventing-itself-as-a-techno-utopia/
Mayor Park Won-Soon’s commitment to this initiative is also highlighted, “He wants to show citizens that their local government is doing all it can to understand and improve their quality of life. This dashboard seemed like a potential green shoot of democracy—a city doing what it can to show citizens why government should be trusted and that their quality of life, including the quality of the air they breathe, the prices of the apples they eat, and the traffic jams they face daily, is important.” Ibid. This review sums up the main goal of this commitment and promotes its outcome and Seoul’s digital initiative to the international audience.
While this commitment was mostly completed with substantial results on open government, there are two recommendations that could be carried forward:
1. Make action plan text as specific and detailed as possible. The action plan states that all departments across SMG will be involved in this endeavor; however, furture commitments could provide more explicit details by adding information such as the specific institutions and provide a clear work plan. It also seems that intuitive understanding of the commitment might be difficult for ordinary citizens upon reading the action plan text and it should be written in a plainer language.
2. Promote the Digital Office for Citizens and Mayor Platform to benefit as many citizens as possible. Along with the future opening of the Digital Office, the government should promote the work of the office as an effective way to reach as many citizens as possible. SMG has invested a considerable amount of budget and workforce to this endeavor, therefore, they could consider establishing a dissemination strategy for its promotion among citizens.
Seoul, South Korea's Commitments
SEO0005, 2018, E-Government
SEO0006, 2018, Capacity Building
Smart Cities Youth Start Ups
SEO0007, 2018, E-Government
Analyze Data to Resolve Urban Problems in Seoul Through Cooperative Governance with Civil Society
SEO0001, 2017, Open Data
Strengthen the Accountability of the Seoul Metropolitan Government by Sharing Public Information with Its Citizens in a Timely and Swift Manner.
SEO0002, 2017, E-Government
Promote Crowdsourcing Map-Making by Facilitating the Environment for Citizens to Make Their Own Urban-Life Maps.
SEO0003, 2017, Capacity Building
Provide More Transparent Meeting Information and Minutes.
SEO0004, 2017, Capacity Building