Clinton kicks off open-government partnership

Multilateral group to be co-chaired by United States and Brazil in first year

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has formed an international partnership to use innovative technologies for transparency and public engagement.

Clinton and Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota announced the Open Government Partnership at a July 12 meeting of about 90 officials of governments and nongovernment organizations from around the world. Clinton and Patriota will co-chair the program in its first year.

The partnership leaders also debuted a new website, Facebook page and Twitter account. Many transparency advocates view social media, wikis, transparency websites and crowdsourcing applications as tools for increasing openness and availability of data and for getting public feedback.

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The partnership follows President Barack Obama’s pledge to foster more open government around the world to fight corruption and improve accountability, which he made at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2010.

Among the goals of the partnership are to share best practices and demonstrate available technologies, methods and tools, the State Department said in a news release.

The partnership will formally launch in September, after the steering committee develops an open-government declaration and countries announce action plans.

Maria Otero, undersecretary for democracy and global affairs, said governments around the world are pursuing greater transparency in several ways — by publishing more data, engaging with the public to monitor and oversee delivery of services and obtaining input from the public on how to improve services. Transparency “can decrease and discourage corruption,” Otero said in a video posted at State's website.

For example, in India, the government trained “citizen monitors” to oversee the distribution of funding for local relief, resulting in millions of dollars saved from corruption, Warren Krafchik, director of the International Budget Partnership, said in the video.

In addition, in Mexico, a private organization posted government data about trade-related subsidies for farmers online for the first time, which revealed that the wealthiest farmers were receiving a large share of the subsidies. The publicity resulted in reforms in policy, Krafchik said.

“Citizens can contribute to good governance,” he said.

However, despite general enthusiasm for the goals of the partnership among transparency advocates, there also was some skepticism about whether the new partnership would have the intended effect. “The Open Government Partnership: Game Changer or Symbolic Slogan?” asked David Sasaki, a consultant for the Open Society Institute, in a July 11 blog entry.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Wed, Jul 13, 2011 earth

“Citizens can contribute to good governance,” he said. WOW that that statement was included almost made me want to scream into the computer. Consider that a government is no more than the will of the people to get along with each other made corporate. Now I know that a lot of Judeo-Christians have a lingering assumption that governments are “God Given” to some king to regulate the affairs of HIS subjects but in the U.S. of A. that I grew up in, a government derived its just powers from the consent of the governed and only has the rights that were granted to it by the people (unfortunately that isn’t always the language past “representatives” put into documents) . Therefore, each citizen not only has a right to inspect and criticize the government but a duty to do so. Indeed the only information the government has a right to withhold is that information it holds for the benefit of individuals that could be used to violate the citizens privacy or otherwise attack them (militarily, economically, etc.) In this the government has a duty to make this information available as easily as possible to citizens (only) so that citizens can improve their abilities to promote the general welfare. Note how I stated that. Any person that starts thinking top down needs to be booted from office. Anyone that isn’t thinking bottom up has failed. Any “democracy” that isn’t moving from actually being a “republic” to a direct democracy given the communication technologies available today is a malingering tyranny masquerading as a pseudo-democracy.

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