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Open Government and Communication

Mary Francoli|

At the risk of simplifying a complex concept that has a much longer history than the OGP, we can say that contemporary open government is centred on three fundamental components:

  1. Understanding, collecting, managing, and preserving messages, information, and data;
  2. Citizen engagement and participation; and
  3. The innovative use of technology in the fulfillment of the first two components.

Measures to improve these things comprise a significant number of the commitments made to the OGP through its members’ national action plans, as can be seen through the OGP Explorer. They are also the focus of many academics working within the field of Communication and Media Studies.  

Carleton University students in Ottawa, Canada, are studying this natural link between communication and open government, in a new undergraduate class titled ‘Open Government and Communication.’ Over twelve weeks, the students examine how communication can be used to improve governance and to foster a more collaborative relationship between governments and citizens.

Building pedagogy around open government and embedding it into curricula helps to ensure that future open government leaders and advocates have the skillsets needed to work critically on the range of complex questions and issues that challenge open government.  These include things, such as:

  • Measurement of success in open government;
  • Models of engagement;
  • How to balance the need for innovative uses of technology with a digital divide, and increasingly a data divide;
  • How to best promote open government in political systems which have complicated divisions of power;
  • How to balance access to information, and a shift to ‘open by default’ with concerns related to privacy, national security, and other legislated rationale for leaving information and data ‘closed;’
  • How to optimize open data and the importance of solid metadata; and
  • Diplomacy and the politics of contemporary open government at the national and international levels.

As part of the open government class at Carleton University, students have written a series of blog posts related to a range of topics concerning the above challenges.  These posts will appear on the OGP blog over the coming weeks. We hope you enjoy them.


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