Global Open Government Partnership gets mixed forecasts

As the United States prepares to co-launch a global partnership for government transparency, advocates weigh in with suggestions for priorities while critics warn of risks.

Senior government officials from the United States and Brazil, the co-chairing countries, will officially start the Open Government Partnership at a United Nations event Sept. 20. Each of the eight countries that are initial partners is expected to unveil an open-government plan. More countries are thought to be seeking membership.

The partnership has drawn increasing attention, with transparency being touted as a way to reduce corruption, increase trust in government and lower costs. The partnership seeks to support a broad range of innovative practices offered by governments around the world.

“For the U.S. as well as the other participants, the Open Government Partnership has been an impetus to action for transparency,” wrote Gavin Baker, federal information policy analyst at OMB Watch, in a blog entry posted Sept. 1. “The national plan to be released in September is an important opportunity for the [Obama] administration to expand on its progress in strengthening open government in order to empower Americans and build a better democracy.”

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OMB Watch submitted suggestions for the forthcoming plan, which included improving federal websites and with common data formats and identifiers, strengthening records management, and increasing disclosure.

Meanwhile, there's been some pushback. Andrea Di Maio, a vice president at Gartner Research, said the countries involved are at different levels in terms of their open-government priorities, making common goals unclear.

“Even looking at the two co-chairs — U.S. and Brazil — differences are striking in terms of pace of growth, level of development, attitude toward IT sourcing,” Di Maio wrote in a Sept. 6 blog entry.

He also warned against the global partnership being used to advance vendor or country agendas.

The risk “is that leading countries tend to showcase their approaches, which are almost automatically taken as best practices,” Di Maio wrote. “But what is a best practice for a federal agency in the U.S. or a large city in the U.K. may be either irrelevant or even counterproductive in a place like Moldova or Albania, just to name two.”

Also, some of the pressure to adopt open-government practices is coming from technology vendors for commercial reasons, he added.

“Of course, it is early to say whether and how the joint governance mechanism in the Open Government Partnership will prevent such risks, but it is important for all participants to be acutely aware of those,” he said.

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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