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Introducing the Open Government Metric: A quantitative instrument to measure improvement in Mexico

Joel Salas Suárez|

In 2016, Mexico endorsed the OGP Paris Declaration for two reasons. We are founding members of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), and by legal mandate, Mexican public institutions must engage in open government. The General Law of Transparency and Access to Information states that all public institutions, no matter their level or branch of government, must implement open government policies or programs. In our country, it is not optional, but compulsory to put the three principles of open government into practice. The National Institute of Access to Information (INAI), is the autonomous body in charge of overseeing the enforcing of this law.

Mexico has carried out open government initiatives both at the federal (since 2011) and local (since 2015) levels. INAI knew that over the next five years, OGP countries’ results would be evaluated, and that Mexico’s progress in opening its government needed a baseline and indicators to identify how Mexican public agencies were adopting open government and to find out what could be improved. To answer these questions, INAI asked a group of academics from the Center for Economic Research and Teaching (CIDE) to develop a quantitative instrument. We named it the Open Government Metric.

What is this metric? It is a quantitative instrument that measures the levels of transparency and citizen participation in over 900 federal and local agencies from the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches.The metric answers the following questions both from the governmental and citizen perspectives: how much do agencies publish useful information to account for their decisions and actions, and how much do they implement mechanisms to include citizen opinions or proposals into public matters. Not only were the legal and institutional frameworks evaluated, but a “secret shopper” technique was used to assess citizens’ ability to influence the public agenda.

How does this metric measure the ability to adopt open government? Experts evaluated the level of transparency and of each institution by answering these questions: do they comply with legal transparency obligations? Do they publish proactively relevant information? Do they publish open data? The research team also assessed the usefulness of public information for everyday citizens: was it accessible and liable? As for the level of citizen participation, experts asked these questions: Is there a mechanism for citizen participation in each agency? How close is the interaction between citizens and the agency? Are citizens’ proposals or opinions transmitted, and how fast is that information relayed to decision-makers? Finally, sub-indexes were built for the transparency and citizen participation dimensions, as well as a general index of open government. Scores range from 0 (minimum) to 1 (maximum). Advances in access to information are remarkable, but there are significant areas of opportunity in citizen participation. The methodology can be replicated and adjusted in other countries.

The metric has shown what we have to improve to push forward a national agenda for open government. In last three years, INAI concentrated on promoting and implementing open government at the subnational level in Mexico, and we think that a national movement is consolidating. We are moving from a theory or abstract administrative paradigm to a movement that has identifiable practical results. Public institutions from all levels and branches of government, autonomous bodies, social organizations and independent actors are gradually getting involved in open government initiatives across the country. We are optimistic that within five years, the metric will confirm the rate progress in opening Mexico’s governments.

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