Interview, Ms. Rikke Hougaard Zeberg, Director-General, the Danish Agency for Digitisation
1) Why is it important for a country with low levels of corruption, like Denmark, to be part of an organization like OGP?
Openness, anti-corruption and citizen engagement are all continuously important issues – even to countries with a long tradition of open government, like Denmark. Openness continues to be an important element in Nordic democracies and is only becoming increasingly relevant, due to our increasingly digital everyday life where technological opportunities form the foundation for better involvement of citizens, openness about decisions, openness about contracts, and innovation for the benefit of the citizens. Denmark has a long tradition of open government and for engaging globally – especially with developing countries. We support initiatives that can help spread good governance.
2) The latest IRM report shows very positive outcomes from the previous action plans. What are some initiatives you’ve seen have worked and in what issues do you want to see more ambition?
To answer the question properly, it is important to stress that not all openness commitments in Denmark are reflected in the OGP Action Plans. Denmark has a highly decentralized government. Regions and local governments have democratically elected politicians that are responsible for substantial areas of public service provided to citizens. A lot of open government initiatives take place at a local level. This leads to a lot of fruitful experimentation, with all participation being voluntary. Denmark has a long tradition of open government and has the basic institutional framework for openness and transparency in place – for instance access to information, open ownership register, public hearings and a free press. All of this is supported by citizen engagement locally. This means that the press and Parliament are the main forums to discuss openness on a grand scale – more than the OGP Action Plan. That also answers your question about in which areas we would like to see a higher level of ambition. That is really not for me to answer but an important topic for the democratic dialogue in the press and in Parliament.
In Denmark the OGP Action Plans primarily function as a showcase for smaller, incremental, bottom-up commitments from all levels of government, including local and regional levels. Using the OGP Action Plans as a showcase of open government commitments is a crucial way of spreading the good examples both nationally and globally. Already, the first year of implementing the current National OGP Action Plan 2017-2019 has led to a number of concrete results. For example: a range of basic data has been available on a single shared platform, a national strategy has been launched for a stronger civic society, 1034 proposals have been received about superfluous regulations and the Danish government has worked closely together with Transparency International to host the International Anti-Corruption Conference 2018 in Copenhagen.
3) Why is it important that other countries join OGP and design and implement commitments to open up their governments?
It is important to join multilateral initiatives such as the Open Government Partnership to showcase good examples of commitments that aim to enhance civil society, business and government cooperation, increase public participation and harness new technologies to enhance transparency and accountability.