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State of Open Government During COVID-19

Democratic violations of OGP responses to COVID-19 according to the Varieties of Democracy

 


About

This page provides key insights from the global data collected by the COVID-19 OpenGov Tracker managed by the Analytics & Insights team at OGP. For more details about the data, see the Method section. This page does not provide recommendations or examples of reforms. For these and other resources, please see the OGP Guide to Open Government and the Coronavirus.

This page will be updated on a monthly basis. Last updated: October 26, 2020


Method

All data on this page is publicly available on the COVID-19 OpenGov Tracker, which scrapes and centralizes relevant information from a variety of partner websites. See the Tracker for the full list of sources as well as links to the underlying data and methodology published by each partner organization. The tracker is updated daily. Please contact renzo.falla@opengovpartnership.org with any data-related questions or comments.


Key Points

Three months ago, many countries had imposed severe pandemic-related restrictions across a variety of open government issues, including right to information, civic space, and government oversight. Since then, performance has been mixed, with notable improvements in some areas – such as media freedoms – and declines in others. Of particular concern is that issues of digital governance, including surveillance and the spread of disinformation, have accelerated. A full breakdown of these trends is below.

Improvements

  • Media freedoms: The media in fewer countries face limitations in how they can report on the government’s response to COVID-19 (16 OGP countries compared to 25 three months ago). Rates of verbal and physical harassment of journalists reporting COVID-19-related news have also declined, as have limitations on media access to information related to COVID-19.
  • Government accountability: Although emergency measures in several OGP countries continue to allow the executive branch to rule by decree on issues that may go beyond COVID-19, several countries have restored the role of the legislature. Similarly, more OGP countries have set time limits for their emergency measures.

No change

  • State violence: Security forces, including the police and/or the military, continue to use excessive force to enforce emergency measures in several OGP countries. Reports of violence and/or civilian deaths at the hands of security forces occur in 11 OGP countries. This number remains unchanged from three months ago.
  • Open data: More OGP countries now publish COVID-19 testing data (76% compared to 67% three months ago). However, data quality issues remain and the disclosure of sex-disaggregated COVID-19 case data has not improved.

Declines

  • Increased surveillance: The rate of emergency measures in OGP countries that specifically cite citizen surveillance methods has increased steadily since the start of the pandemic. What was once concentrated in European OGP countries has become a global phenomenon.
  • Concerns with disinformation: More governments are frequently disseminating information about COVID-19 that deviates from official guidance provided by the WHO, even if only in a handful of OGP countries. This is particularly concerning given that the media in several countries continues to face limitations in reporting the nature of the virus itself.

Freedom of Expression

17 OGP countries have restricted freedom of expression.

Many of the restrictions relate to misinformation about the pandemic on social media. Some governments have prohibited individuals from expressing opinions concerning the pandemic. The restrictions are disproportionately in Africa and Asia Pacific and surged in April 2020.

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Gender and Inclusion

Emergency measures are at least occasionally discriminatory in six OGP countries.

In six OGP countries, emergency measures are implemented in a way that is at least occasionally discriminatory on the basis of race, color, sex, language, religion or social origin. As for transparency, just over half of OGP countries are publishing sex-disaggregated COVID-19 data (though this rarely extends to testing data). Although there is no significant difference between men and women in global infection rates, there is wide variation across countries.

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Government Oversight

Legislative oversight is limited in seven OGP countries.

The executive in seven OGP countries can rule by decree on many issues, several of which may exceed pandemic-related issues. This measure spiked in June but has decreased since.

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Media Freedom

About ten OGP countries have restricted media freedom.

Emergency measures have placed at least some limitations on how the media can report on COVID-19 in ten OGP countries (disproportionately in Africa and Asia Pacific). Seven of these countries have referenced the pandemic in imposing limitations on media reporting that go beyond news about the pandemic. In addition, there has been verbal/physical harassment of journalists by the government in nine OGP countries. These numbers have all decreased since their peak in June/July 2020.

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Open Data

About a quarter of OGP countries are not regularly publishing testing data.

Most governments are publishing COVID-19-related data, but not always testing data. In all, 20 OGP countries (disproportionately in Asia Pacific) are not publishing testing data. For countries that are disclosing, problems include scope (e.g. US does not disclose private lab data), frequency, and accessibility (some data is only available through social media or press conferences). The rate of OGP countries disclosing testing data has steadily increased since March 2020. An OGP leader in disclosure of testing data is Estonia.

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Physical Violence by Police and Military

Security forces are using violence to execute emergency measures in a quarter of OGP countries.

Security forces, including civilian police and the military, are using disproportionate physical violence against citizens to execute emergency measures in 18 OGP countries. This number increased in June but has decreased since. Countries in Africa and in the Americas are overrepresented in the tally.

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Right to Information

16 OGP members have suspended or altered their RTI frameworks.

So far, nearly one in five OGP countries has suspended or altered its RTI framework in response to the pandemic. In 12 OGP countries, the government has provided information that deviates from official information offered by the WHO. This number has increased since July 2020.

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Surveillance

Emergency measures in 20 OGP countries include citizen surveillance methods.

Although many countries are using location and app data in response to the pandemic, emergency measures in about one in four OGP countries specifically reference surveillance. This number has increased steadily since May 2020. Most surveillance relates to enforcing isolation and lockdown measures – as well as contact tracing – using cell phone location data and monitoring devices.

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