OGP in the News – Week of June 5, 2017
A series providing a round-up of media attention received by Open Government Partnership throughout the world. Want to receive OGP in the News directly in your email inbox every Monday morning? Subscribe here.
This week’s OGP press coverage ran the gamut of countries and themes, from e-government in Latin America, to open data in Burkina Faso, and a surge of local-level participatory budgeting in France.
The new president of Mexico’s National Institute for Access to Information and Protection of Personal Data (INAI), Francisco Javier Acuña Llamas, gave an interview for El Economista during which he spoke to the challenges facing INAI following the withdrawal of ten Mexican civil society organizations from Mexico’s Tripartite OGP Secretariat. One such challenge, he said, is widespread resistance to transparency measures among nearly all government institutions, though Llamas promised to help Mexican citizens exercise their right to access to information and regain their trust. He also underscored some of the transparency successes in Mexico over the last 15 years, including the passage of the first national access to information law (2002) and the creation of the Federal Institute for Access to Information.
Animal Politico ran an opinion piece by Ricardo Luévano of Article 19—one of the civil society organizations that withdrew from Mexico’s OGP Secretariat—explaining how the decision to leave OGP was rooted in far more than illegal government spying on two noted activists and contributors to Mexico’s third OGP National Action Plan (NAP). Saying that OGP has historically been a “space for collaboration” (and inevitable disagreement) between government and civil society in Mexico, Luévano underscored how the country’s third NAP was the result of careful co-creation and input from some 10 working groups and 341 stakeholders. However, during the final stages of the NAP’s development, Luévano claims the government renegotiated many of the initiatives, narrowing their scope and impact. He nevertheless said the civil society organizations formally belonging to Mexico’s OGP framework will continue to advocate the OGP agenda – just not with the current government.
In Argentina, Minister of Modernization Andrés Ibarra visited the city of Cordoba for Argentina’s National Open Forum, an event aimed at developing tools for a more transparent and participatory government. Covered by Télam, Ibarra announced that Argentina will be hosting the 2017 OGP Americas Regional Meeting.
In our last bit of news from the Americas, senior researcher at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center, Thamy Pogrebinschi, authored a piece for Open Democracy about the correlation between information and communications technology (ICT) and democratic engagement in Latin America. Crediting OGP’s growth in the region and the corresponding increase in open data and e-government initiatives with a push by civil society organizations to expand internet access, the author writes, “innovations based on ICT-tools have been growing all over the region, helping to connect citizens not only among themselves and their governments, but also with politics and democracy.” Pogrebinschi noted that while government-supported innovations often have a higher impact, “overcoming state dependence may be crucial for digital innovations to transform democracy by engaging more citizens in the political process.”
Moving on to Africa, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Connected Development Hamzat Lawal penned a piece for Naij.com in which he highlighted the power of democratic and transparent governance in increasing civic participation among rural communities in Nigeria and beyond. Citing OGP’s growing membership in Africa as a counter trend to the continent’s longstanding reputation for “elements of bad governance,” the author explained how Connected Development’s ‘Follow the Money’ initiative aims to further the principles of open government by giving rural communities access to financial information that directly affects them. Emphasizing the reciprocal relationship between OGP and democracy, Lawal said, “it is in the interest of democracy that African governments hold on to their commitments regarding the OGP to mainstream access to information, civic engagement, and fiscal transparency in the management of public affairs and resources.”
From June 1-3, Burkina Faso’s capital of Ouagadougou hosted the very first Francophone Africa Open Data Conference (CAFDO). Covered by Le Faso.net and structured around the theme, “Using Open Data to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” the conference was attended by representatives from diverse nationalities, united in their determination to establish an open data network among Francophone African countries. United Nations Coordinator for Burkina Faso Metsi Makhetha applauded the country’s commitment to open data, which, she says, was born largely after Burkina Faso joined OGP at the OGP Global Summit in December 2016.
More open data news came out of Ghana, which is to host the 2017 Africa Open Data Conference in July. According to an article in Modern Ghana, Ghana was one of the first African nations to create an open data initiative after signing onto OGP in 2012.
In news from Europe, the Italian online newspaper Punto Informatico reported that Italy’s Prime Minister, Paolo Gentiloni, approved the country’s three-year information technology (IT) plan. Italy’s first IT economic policy document allocates about 4.6 million euros (from both EU and national funding sources) to bolster the country’s “digital transformation” and improving public services. Produced by the Agency for Digital Italy (AGID) and the Team for Digital Transformation, the document also provides for the annual collection, maintenance, and public release of certain key datasets, including those related to Italy’s OGP commitments.
And in France, participatory budgets are #trending. La Gazette des Communes ran an article on the unprecedented growth of participatory budgets in French cities over the last three years, jumping from just 6 in 2014 to 34 in 2017. The article’s author and founder of the website lesbudgetsparticipatifs.fr, Antoine Bézard, writes that participatory budgets are born out of the principle guiding the catchphrase “You decide, we deliver.” In other words, government by and for the people. Bézard goes on to offer three recommendations for further advancing participatory budgeting practices in France, including allocating national funds toward participatory budgeting and using the many civic tech tools available in the OGP Toolbox.
Finally, Sri Lankan news outlet DailyFT reported on Transparency International Sri Lanka’s (TISL) concern about the country’s underwhelming progress on the OGP commitments outlined in its 2015-2017 NAP. According to TISL’s OGP Tracker, only 17 of the 116 total commitment milestones were completed as of May 31, 2017. Of those, nearly half have to do with the country’s Right to Information Act, prompting TISL’s Executive Director Asoka Obeysekere to say the following:
We are glad to see the progress in RTI implementation. However, this highlights that progress is very concentrated and the vast majority of themes lack bona fide commitment and leadership. The Government should take steps to address these shortcomings ahead of the first independent review of OGP commitments which commences in September 2017.
Last but not least, need an uplifting story after a busy week in global politics? In a show of overcoming partisan lines, dogs (and their owners, of course) from both sides of the aisle came together in Washington, D.C. for the “Bipawtisan March.”
Of course, we can’t catch everything in our news round-ups, so if you see we’ve missed something or think a particular story ought to be featured, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.