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Opening Up at Davos

Michael Jarvis|

The industry titans, heads of state and experts of the moment gathering at Davos this week have no shortage of pressing concerns, be it dipping financial markets, slow growth in China, refugee crises or the state of politics. On the face of it, a different world to that of OGP. However, if you dig into the theme of this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting – the Fourth Industrial Revolution – you find much that points to the importance of open government.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, as outlined by Klaus Schwab, is a rather nebulous concept, but suggests that the world is only just appreciating the scale of a technologically-driven transformation. This will blur boundaries between fields of expertise, across geographies and even physical, digital and biological realms. The WEF team argue that this fast evolving context will necessitate integrated responses involving all stakeholders, and they highlight transparency and effective participation as essential to success – both pillars of OGP criteria and the open government movement more broadly.

Technology is already enabling citizens to engage with and monitor government and businesses more effectively. In this context, Schwab suggests that mastery of transparency and public engagement will be critical to success, whether as a business needing to please consumers or a government mobilizing support for policy. Their vision of more agile government is one where governments subject “their structures to the levels of transparency and efficiency that will enable them to maintain their competitive edge” and will have no choice but “to collaborate closely with business and civil society.”

This suggests that the learnings from OGP processes will have immediate applicability and merit a broader showcasing. Perhaps we should all lobby for an invite for OGP Co-Chairs for next year’s Forum?

In the meantime, for those of us not on the ski slopes, WEF offer a fascinating set of sessions streamed online. You can see the whole program here. What looks particularly relevant? The session on privacy and secrecy, discussion of a new social contract for 2030, and I’m particularly looking forward to the conversation with Ranil Wickrmensinghe, Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister, who recently committed the country to joining OGP.

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