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Open Government for Improving Public Services in Asia

OGP Support Unit|

By OGP Support Unit, UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub and the Asian Development Bank

Ensuring the provision of good quality public services is an essential function of government and critical to the lives of citizens. Experience and evidence built up over a number of decades has shown that citizens and civil society also have important roles to play in collaborating with governments in improving and delivering public services, and achieving better outcomes. Open government reforms, in particular, have the potential to improve existing services, and unlock the ideas, networks, and capacity for finding new solutions to service delivery challenges.

In Asia the quality of expansion of public services has seriously lagged behind the pace of economic growth. There is however a new momentum in the region and globally to invest into effective and equitable services, which is a key pillar for delivering the Sustainable Development Goals.

Governments are not alone in this endeavour, as recent experience shows that people can be part of the solution. In Asia here are some examples of interesting reforms to integrate citizen voice in the design, delivery and monitoring of services:

  • In Indonesia, government and civil society have trained teams of health professionals under the Pencereh Nusantara program to conduct outreach at health centers in remote and underdeveloped areas, both providing more information about health services and soliciting citizen feedback to help improve the efficiency of public health programs. Assessments have shown significant improvement in health centers’ management, health promotion activities, nutrition interventions, and delivery of basic medical treatments. Various community-based health units are now available in each village of the participating locations, with support of local inhabitants. After three years of implementation, sufficient evidence on the improvement of public health service delivery in seven designated areas has become the basis for Indonesia’s Ministry of Health to scale up the program to the national level.

  • The Citizen Participatory Audit program in the Philippines has institutionalized citizen feedback and service delivery in flood control, health facilities, solid waste management, and building schools. One compelling example is where the government disclosed its roads expenditures online, geo-coded at the local level. The Philippines Commission of Audit commissioned Participatory Social Audits with citizens and CSOs to monitor whether roads exist, saving $300,000 per ghost road.

  • Check My Services, in Mongolia, has received over 40,000 requests and evaluated 84 public services through a citizen scorecard program resulting in improvements in a range of public services from waste disposal to water supply. For example, renovation of water kiosks in districts distant from metropolitan areas, have reduced the time taken to access drinking water supply.

These examples demonstrate the tangible results that can be achieved through collaborative approaches between government and civil society in response to citizen feedback. Even as we see these and other successful initiatives being adopted and implemented in a number of different contexts, one of the most commonly acknowledged factors affecting citizens’ trust in government across countries is its ability to deliver public service effectively and efficiently. Only about 10% of commitments made by OGP countries are on public service delivery.  

Given the growing recognition in recent years on the need to make the partnership relevant to the needs of everyday citizens, OGP’s recently concluded Strategic Refresh prioritized public service delivery as a key tentpole of open government progress, in line with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. Both the 2030 Agenda and the Strategic Refresh treat building effective, transparent, and accountable institutions as a key element for improving public service delivery, reaching citizens where it’s most important – in schools, in healthcare, in water and sanitation, and elsewhere. The benefit of such initiatives does not stop with citizens. In many cases, improvements in public service delivery lead to improvements in GDP growth, cut procurement spending, and overall savings in government expenditures.

UNDP has been supporting governments in the last ten years in addressing governance bottlenecks in the delivery of public services, as part of its mandate to promote sustainable development. It has developed and applied globally a series of methodologies in sectors such as education, water, health and the judiciary to help governments ensure that “no one is left behind” when it comes to accessing public services that are at the heart of people’s lives. Our experience has also shown that when people and local communities are involved in the design, delivery and monitoring of services this brings several benefits as outlined above, and also increases the reach and quality of the services being delivered. For example, the involvement of citizens in monitoring the delivery of water services in the Philippines has resulted into an increase in 50% points in the availability of these services in municipalities.

Given the renewed global focus on including citizens in the design and implementation of public service delivery programs both within OGP and the international community, OGP is working with partners to develop more resources to support these initiatives. Earlier this year guidance for developing OGP commitments on service delivery was released. As a next step, the Open Government Partnership Support Unit, the United Nations Development Programme Bangkok Regional Hub (UNDP BRH), and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) are partnering to host a Public Service Delivery workshop at ADB Headquarters in Manila, Philippines on August 7-8. This workshop aims to catalyze ambitious public service delivery reforms, foster learning between government agencies, civil society organizations and development partners working on improving public services, and explore how the OGP platform can be used to develop, implement, evaluate and showcase impactful reforms.  One additional focus of the workshop will be to build stronger value propositions for improving transparency, accountability and public participation in the design, delivery and evaluation of public services.

Participants will hear from representatives across the region in order to learn how these initiatives can be improved, scaled up, or adapted into unique country or subnational contexts.  Some examples of initiatives that will be discussed at the workshop include:

  • Pakistan’s Citizen Satisfaction Index – A periodic citizens’ satisfaction survey to create a standardised feedback loop for governance and service delivery.

  • Afghanistan’s Community-based Monitoring of Schools – Bringing more coordination between communities and government departments, increasing transparency and accountability, enhancing the quality of education services through community monitoring, collaborative information sharing and problem solving.

  • Health-sector initiatives in Sri Lanka – Programs improving public access to preventive and curative strategies to combat Chronic Kidney Disease and a transparent policy to provide safe and affordable medicines for all.  

  • The Philippines’ Assistance to Disadvantaged Municipalities – Covering 1,373 municipalities nationwide, the ADM program provides a “catch-up mechanism” to assist municipal governments in increasing citizens’ access to basic facilities and ensures participation of civil society organizations in local governance. Project types covered by ADM include water system, evacuation facility, local access roads, small water impounding, and sanitation and health facilities.

  • The Governance Hubs in the Philippines, with citizens being empowered to monitor budget allocation and expenditure in a variety of sectors, such as water, education, health and agriculture. The governance hubs provide regional networks of people with capacities to monitor local development projects. In addition a real-time platform is currently under development to provide a real-time platform for service users to provide feedback.

In an Innovation Lab session, components of two successful initiatives – LAPOR and Governance Hubs –  will be analysed, reflecting on their design, what has made them successful, what can be improved and how they may be adapted to other country contexts.

After the conclusion of the two-day workshop, look out for a series of blogs from workshop participants, summarizing lessons learned and what to look forward to in service delivery in Asia. Watch this space!

Follow the Service Delivery Workshop on Twitter with #OpenGov4Services and #CorruptionFreeAsia

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