Feasibility Study on NGO Satellite Account (SK0077)
Action Plan: Slovak Republic National Action Plan 2017-2019
Action Plan Cycle: 2017
Lead Institution: head of the Slovak Statistical Office in cooperation with the Plenipotentiary of the Govern-ment for the Development of Civil Society
Support Institution(s): NA
Policy AreasAccess to Information, Civic Space, Freedom of Association, Open Data
Commitment No. 20: Carry out an initial feasibility study on the introduction of satellite account for NGOs (cost-benefit analysis).
IRM Midterm Status Summary
THEME - Open data: Analysis, law and training
Comm 1, 2, 3, 4, 20
Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan[Note : The Office of the Plenipotentiary, “Open Government Partnership National Action Plan of the Slovak Republic 2017 – 2019”, http://bit.ly/2QYIlHV ]:
Commitment 1: “Perform an analysis of the market value and economic potential of open data in Slovakia, including analysis of saving public funds”.
Commitment 2: “Submit a draft law on data to the Government”.
Commitment 3: “Conduct training for employees of public administration made responsible by their employer to publish open data on behalf of the public institution”.
Commitment 4: “Adopt guidelines for a standardized publication method and content of published datasets for state administration and local self-government as part of the amendment of the Decree of Ministry of Finance No. 55/2014 Coll. on Standards for Public Administration Information Systems, as amended”.
Commitment 20: “Carry out an initial feasibility study on the introduction of satellite account for NGOs (cost-benefit analysis)”.
Start Date: Not specified
End Date: 31 December 2018
Context and Objectives
The primary goal of this cluster of commitments is to ensure favorable conditions for further publication of open government data, which has been one of the main priorities in all Slovak national action plans since 2011. The first action plan resulted in the creation of Data.gov.sk, a national open data portal[Note : The Office of the Plenipotentiary, “Open Government Partnership National Action Plan of the Slovak Republic”, http://bit.ly/2DKiGPZ]. The following action plans[Note : The Office of the Plenipotentiary, “Open Government Partnership National Action Plan of the Slovak Republic 2015”, http://bit.ly/2RevqCc ], including the current one for years 2017 – 2019, built on previous efforts to maintain continuity. This ongoing commitment to open data has translated into improved rankings for Slovakia in the international indices, such as Global Open Data Index (GODI) and Open Data Barometer (ODB). As for GODI, Slovakia moved up from the 50th place in 2015 to the 31st place in 2016[Note : Open Knowledge International, “Global Open Data Index”, https://index.okfn.org/place/. Note: The Global Open Data Index in 2016 needs to be taken with cautiousness, as its methodology has changed significantly from year 2015 to 2016. Newer data is not available globally, since Open Knowledge International stopped producing GODI. ]. As for ODB, Slovakia moved up from the 36th in 2015 to the 26th place in 2016[Note : World Wide Web Foundation, “Open Data Barometer”, http://bit.ly/2Pse2Np. Note: Newer data for Slovakia is not available since Open Data Barometer picked only a handful of countries to asses in 2017. ].
The advancements of open data agenda owe mostly to engaged civil society who has thorough expertise in the area, shares it with public administration and pushes the agenda (bottom-up). In particular, Slovensko.digital, which was launched in November 2015, has established itself as a respected leader in open data and e-government more broadly. Public servants actively cooperate with Slovensko.digital and consult them, as well as other experts[Note : Interview with Lukáš Jankovič (Ministry of Transport and Construction), 6 November 2018. Interview with a representative of a central government agency who wished to remain anonymous, 5 November 2018. See Section ‘VI. Methodology and sources for details. ]. Slovensko.digital was also involved in the development of open data commitments and helped to shape their final wording substantially.
Another important factor was the creation of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for Investments and Informatization in June 2016[Note : The Slovak Spectator, “Deputy PM’s office gets new powers”, http://bit.ly/2auvvSg. ]. In the previous IRM report[Note : Mária Žuffová, “Slovakia Special Accountability Report 2014 - 2015”, http://bit.ly/2EzH4Ws ] different stakeholders raised the fragmentation of competencies for open data as an issue and obstacle to greater progress in the field. Therefore, this change has been welcomed and perceived as a useful next step to speed up the progress in the area by both public servants[Note : Interview with Ján Gondoľ (worked for Deputy Prime Minister’s Office for Investments and Informatization of the Slovak Republic as a consultant on OGP commitments during the action plan implementation), 5 November 2018. Interview with a ministry representative 1 who wished to remain anonymous, 6 November 2018. Interview with a representative of a central government agency who wished to remain anonymous, 5 November 2018. See Section ‘VI. Methodology and sources for details. ] and CSO representatives[Note : Interview with Martin Turček (Aktuality.sk), 15 October 2018. See Section ‘VI. Methodology and sources for details. ]. However, the establishment of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for Investments and Informatization has not addressed the problem entirely, as the National Agency for Network and Electronic Services (NASES), which is an autonomous entity, still oversaw the technical implementation of open data and ran Data.gov.sk as well as Slovensko.sk, a national e-government portal. Prime minister Peter Pellegrini, the former Deputy Prime Minister for Investments and Informatization, also perceived his limited competencies as a problem and suggested that NASES should become a part of his office[Note : Radio Express, „Slovensko.sk is out of my reach” (an interview at the Radio Express Show with Peter Pellegrini, the former Deputy Prime Minister’s Office for Investments and Informatization of the Slovak Republic), http://bit.ly/2r590bg (in Slovak). ]. As of 1 January 2019, this will happen in line with the amended legislation, and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for Investments and Informatization will be responsible for technical implementation too[Note : SLOV-LEX (Legal and information portal), The Ministry of Justice, “The Act no. 575/2001 on the organization and activities of the government and central public administration”, http://bit.ly/2P2fGjF (in Slovak) and The National Council of the Slovak Republic, “The amendment of the Act no. 575/2001 on the organization and activities of the government and central public administration”, http://bit.ly/2RbIbNI (in Slovak).]. Several interviewees mentioned while establishing the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for Investments and Informatization is a positive step, frequent changes on all organizational levels at the Office have slowed down processes and collaboration within working groups.
All above commitments contribute to a more demand-driven open data publication and ensure that it is standardized across different sectors. However, their potential impact varies greatly.
Commitment 1, to analyze the market value and economic potential of open data, as worded in the action plan, has a minor impact in terms of open government. Nonetheless, the analysis might point to potentially substantial savings of public resources resulting from open data publication. The indication of overall and sector-specific savings might motivate the ministers and public servants to publish more open data, which could then, in turn, lead to actual savings and have a considerable economic impact overall. Individually, most of the other commitments have also minor impact only. The law on data (commitment 2) and guidelines (commitment 4) have the potential to standardize open data publication practices, and several interviewees argued that if the draft is well crafted, and subsequently adopted and enforced, it could be an important game changer[Note : Interview with a ministry representative 1 who wished to remain anonymous, 6 November 2018. See Section ‘VI. Methodology and sources for details. ]. However, the impact is fully reliant on data publication. Even if the law and guidelines are excellent, they will only apply to data that would be made available. If public agencies open key datasets, only then will the impact be substantial. Interviewees have also agreed that the outreach and training of public servants are crucial. A ministry representative stated that while the meeting minutes may represent a dataset for administrative staff, IT staff does not consider such file a dataset. He is convinced that a more united approach is needed, and both training for public servants (commitment 3) and the law on data (commitment 2) and guidelines (commitment 4), would contribute to open data publication of better quality as they would bring more clarity and conformity[Note : Ibid. ]. CSO representatives agreed that the analysis of the feasibility of introducing satellite account for CSOs is useful as many will benefit from having the data on CSOs available on a single platform. The satellite account should ideally include the following information about CSOs: a legal form of organization, its seat, prevalent focus in terms of topics, target groups, geographical coverage, years of existence, personal capacities, and economic indicators, e.g. revenues and expenditures, and total assets[Note : The Statistical Office, „Štúdia uskutočniteľnosti zostavenia satelitného účtu za
mimovládne neziskové organizácie“ (The feasibility study on the introduction of satellite account for NGOs), http://bit.ly/2NqpSDJ (In Slovak)]. The benefits of such information are manifold. For instance, public servants need coherent information on who the key stakeholders are in different areas to include them in relevant policy-making processes[Note : Interview with Marcel Zajac (Centre for Philanthropy), 5 November 2018. See Section ‘VI. Methodology and sources for details. ]. It may also provide the government with valuable insights about the geographical representation of CSOs by the topics they cover and identify gaps.
Nonetheless, alongside the satellite account for CSOs, which will be operated by the Statistical Office, other two registers of CSOs will be created (one managed by the Ministry of Interior and another one by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for Investments and Informatization)[Note : Lucia Lacika (The Office of the Plenipotentiary), E-mail conversation, 30 November 2018, See Section ‘VI. Methodology and sources for details. ]. It was not clear to the IRM researcher how distinctively different they are and whether they do not create duplicities. All commitments in this cluster are specific enough to be verified once the implementation cycle is over. Similarly, all have the potential to increase access to government information to a different extent.
Based on the available information on the current progress of the commitments and interviews with key stakeholders the IRM researcher recommends the following:
- Consider different ways to get buy-in from public servants
The IRM researcher recommends building on the analysis, which has already been completed but does not provide with any information on potential savings. Therefore, the analysis should be complemented with the detailed calculations of potential savings of public resources in different sectors of the Slovak economy. Once these savings are identified, a campaign targeted at specific government agencies, ministries and local authorities, as well as the private sector might be launched to support further open data publication and use. Alternatively, other ways to get buy-in from public servants might be considered, e.g. by demonstrating how open data can translate into a decrease in their administrative burden.
- Develop the Law on Data in an inclusive and participatory manner
Many interviewees have emphasized the importance of the draft law on data[Note : Interview with a ministry representative 1 who wished to remain anonymous, 6 November 2018. See Section ‘VI. Methodology and sources for details. ]. However, they also stated that the Office of the Deputy Minister for Investments and Informatization delays implementation of this commitment mostly due to the frequent changes in personnel[Note : Interview with Lucia Lacika (The Office of the Plenipotentiary), 27 September and 9 October 2018, See Section ‘VI. Methodology and sources for details. ]. They agreed that it is crucial that the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister resumes the operation of working groups, in particular, the group “Better data”. CSO representatives in open data but also in other OGP areas have emphasized the importance of developing the legislation in a participative manner[Note : Interview with Marcel Zajac (Centre for Philanthropy), 5 November 2018. Interview with Karolína Miková (PDCS), 9 November 2018. Interview with Ján Gondoľ (worked for Deputy Prime Minister’s Office for Investments and Informatization of the Slovak Republic as a consultant during the action plan implementation on OGP commitments), See Section ‘VI. Methodology and sources for details. ]. There has been an engaged IT community in Slovakia, which must be a part of discussions. There has also been a wide agreement that the law should also be harmonized with Freedom of Information Act[Note : Peter Hanečák on the Platform of Slovensko.Digital, http://bit.ly/2Scoiq5 (in Slovak) ].
- Widen the scope of the training for public servants, including the application of FOIA
CSO representatives also agreed that training for civil servants might be a useful commitment but emphasized that it needs to be approached more broadly. Access to information is not about pro-active open data publication only but also about responding to FOI requests. A public authority that promotes the publication of datasets but withholds information from requesters where there is no legal ground for that cannot be considered transparent. For instance, the National Agency for Network and Electronic Services (NASES) which is one of the leading agencies in open data is a negative example of thereof, as it has a record of refusing FOI requests which have inquired about the use of public funds[Note : Martin Turček, “Za Slovensko.sk sa vynárajú jakšíkovci aj firma spájaná s Počiatkom”, (Slovensko.sk is related with “jakšíkovci” and a firm related to Počiatek), Aktuality.sk, http://bit.ly/2SD10df (In Slovak). ]. The training should be made available to civil servants on both state administration and local self-government level, as they are equally FOIA compliant.
- Continue developing the guidelines for data publication
Similarly, stakeholders agreed that common guidelines for data publication are crucial. Therefore, the implementation of commitment 4 requires only need to be continued. In the light of remarks of one ministry representative about some datasets that are published on Data.gov.sk for non-commercial use only, which is a violation of open data conditions, this commitment proves to be useful[Note : Interview with a ministry representative 1 who wished to remain anonymous, 6 November 2018. See Section ‘VI. Methodology and sources for details. ].
- Avoid duplicities in developing the satellite account for CSOs
In general, conducting a feasibility study prior to implementation of any project is a useful practice. Thus, analyzing the feasibility of introducing a satellite account for CSOs is important[Note : The Statistical Office, “Štúdia uskutočniteľnosti zostavenia satelitného účtu za mimovládne neziskové organizácie” (Feasibility study on the introduction of satellite account for CSOs), http://bit.ly/2S37XEw (in Slovak). ]. While the satellite account for CSOs has been perceived positively as such, two other registers of CSOs are being developed by different public agencies at the same time. It remains unclear to what extent they will overlap and create duplicities and why a more united approach has not been taken in the first place. Having a register of CSOs is vital for a variety of reasons. As one CSO representative stated, once a registry is launched if a ministry develops policy in a participatory manner, it will have a list of all relevant organizations and formalized initiatives which should be invited to participate[Note : Interview with Marcel Zajac (Centre for Philanthropy), 5 November 2018. See Section ‘VI. Methodology and sources for details. ]. More generally, it will provide with the data about the sector and allow for more thorough analysis about challenges that CSOs face. Nonetheless, as with any data, critical engagement is important to make meaningful use of it. All in all, the stakeholders and IRM researchers recommend continuing making use of the analysis for the better design of the account. That said, it should also be explored how the account and two other registers can be merged to avoid duplicities.