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Faces of Open Government- Thom Townsend

Thom Townsend|

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How important is open government to you?
It’s what makes a democracy work. Democracy shouldn’t, and isn’t, just about voting every few years, it’s about everyday participation and you need an open government to make that feasible. In my day to day to work, I find amazing officials all over government who share this same passion so it’s important for them that open government and the Open Government Partnership remains as high on the agenda so they can deliver their plans for opening up government.
What are the opportunities of working with civil society?
There are huge opportunities when you work closely with civil society. They are creative and challenging and provide a really legitimate voice that I use everyday to advocate for the open government agenda. In the UK, we’re always looking at how we can bring as broad of a group as possible into the open government conversation and I’m particularly interested in how we use online tools to do that more.
What brought you into this kind of work/what are you excited about?
I’ve been involved in the open government agenda first outside of government and now inside it. I started my career working in participative technology for government so I was heavily involved in civil society action on open government. Coming into this role is a great opportunity to advance the agenda from another perspective which is really interesting.  I’m most excited about what technology can offer us in the next few years – for me it really is the catalyst for change here in the UK. I think back to my early days of being involved with local government spending data – you could always go into a local government office to see the accounts, but no one did. Today, looking it up in a really intuitive way via a smart phone really changes the incentives for getting involved. It will ultimately lead to greater participation which is really exciting for accountability and transparency.
What are your hopes and desires for OGP in 2016?
It grows! I’m currently in the Dominican Republic talking about open government to officials here. The OGP is a real catalyst for getting things done and the Dominican Republic is moving forward very fast on this agenda. Getting more countries involved and growing the number of opportunities for us to learn from each other is my main hope for the OGP.

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