Greece Joins OGP; Tweets Source of Info on Meeting

7 December 2011

By Toby McIntosh

The Open Government Partnership began a two-day “peer exchange working level meeting” Dec. 7 as Greece’s commitment to join brought OGP membership to 50.

Most of the sessions were nonpublic, but some tidbits emerged via Twitter postings throughout the day.

Among the newsier items:

          Kenya promised to have a draft plan out by the end of January. Posted by Rakesh Rajani, an OGP Steering Committee member and the head of the group Twaweza Tanzania.  

          Tanzania, whose consultation effort has come under criticism, intends to have a draft plan ready by Dec. 15, consult with civil society and improve its website. (Rajini)

          Tanzania and Kenya reps “talked of creating joint govt-CS group to make plan and substance real.”  (Rajani)

          “Swedes plan to broaden aid transparency disclosures as part of #OGP commitments. GIFT/PFM transparency as well.” Posted by Nathaniel Heller, Executive Director of the Global Integrity.

          “Greek govn still believes it can deliver credible #OGP commitments by April 2012 despite crisis. Wow.” (Heller)

          “Based on readouts from #OGP regional breakouts, looks like #anticorruption commits are by far the most common.” (Heller)

          Lots of local embassy reps rather than reps from capital here in the Europe group at #OGP. Brasilia = too far. (Heller)

          Little mention was made in the tweets about calls from some in civil society for the nine civil society members of the OGP Steering Committee to criticize the secrecy bill nearing passage in South Africa. One tweet by Heller noted “S. Africa distributed explanation as to why the Secrecy Bill is not a bad thing at #OGP meeting today. Uh, ok.”

          Discussions on the topic continue, FreedomInfo.org heard from persons at the meeting.

(For the 30 plus previous FreedomInfo.org articles on the OGP, see here.)

Some tweeters also offered news bits and comments.

          “Amazing activities re engagement with civil society presented by croatian gvt #OGP keen to hear croatian CSOs views on it!” tweeted Martin Tisne, director of the Transparency and Accountability Initiative, whose member groups largely fund the OGP.

          “Some very breathless talk here in the #OGP Europe breakout group about the power of open data. I’m a fan but not a fan boy :),” By Heller, who has previously expressed his views on the subject. (See FreedomInfo.org.)

          Amusingly by Heller: “Oh lord. Someone just used the “NAP” acronym in referring to #OGP National Action Plans. Fight the bureaucracy!”

          @opengovpart question is, how do you scale social audits by having gvt collaborate with civil society to implement them? (Tisne)

          -“Awesome to see #OGP countries networking, sharing experiences over coffee in Brasilia. Let a thousand flowers #open! Posted by Caroline Mauldin, Special Assistant to the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs.

           “#OGP action plans are living documents, they are opportunities for learning between and within countries” (Tisne)

          Samantha Powers of #whitehouse asking for model of a successful anti-corruption commission. Concerned about KPK in Indonesia. #OGP” Heller wrote, later commenting, “So exciting to hear others agree that centralized anti-corruption commissions are a bad bet.”

At times, given the universality of Twitter, comments were made by those not at the meeting, as in this post from a Tanzanian, “In Tanzania 2day, media is silent on grand corruption. Police are banning peaceful protests against corruption. BUT,TZ participating in #OGP.”

Most Sessions Closed

The OGP prohibited press coverage of the afternoon working sessions at which government officials, organized by region, described their efforts so far to devise national action plans. The plans are due in April 2012. The OGP wanted the “peer to peer” exchanges to be frank and confidential.

The opening plenary session in the morning of Dec. 7 was public, although the OGP put out a phone number to call via Twitter only about the time the session started. Turns out the number had been posted for weeks in a logistical note for participants on the OGP website.

The OGP has just added a communications staff person. The OGP disclosure policy is due to be issued in January.

OGP Tweets

The OGP itself tweeted frequently about the meeting.

The official OGP tweets included such posts as:

          “Great #OGP regional discussions just ended. Experiences shared and now the panel will present highlights”

          “Sad that the concept of #accountability doesn’t exist in Spanish. How can we fix this?”

          @martintisne asking the panel about lessons learned on how to develop partnerships”

          “Is not rocket science, is just #OGP! Why are not all countries joining?, asks @rakeshrajani

          “Lives can be saved with #opengov and #transparency. #UK currently sharing its experience and how it relates to access to inf and health #OGP

          “Is your country an #OGP country? What are the different tools your country is using for consultation process? Let us know! #opengov

          #Peru in the room: working already in their #OGP action draft! Is your country an #OGP country? Find out here: http://www.opengovpartnership.org/countries

          “May you leave Brasilia totally committed to #OGP” Jorge Hage

Counting the total number of relevant tweets is complicated by the fact that hash tag OGP is being shared with “OccupyOakland,”  “Orono Girl Problems” and “OakGroveProblems.” However, there were more than 100 posting about the meeting in Brazil.

One hint of possible future transparency came in a Heller tweet: “Mexico asks that all notes from these #OGP meetings be posted on website. Me too!”

One country official told FreedomInfo.org that meeting summaries will be posted “asap” and also will cover the nonpublic meeting Dec. 6 of the OGP Steering Committee.

U.S. Seeks More Input

In other OGP news, the Obama Administration Dec. 6 sought additional comments on its national action plan, issues a blog post with a series of questions.

In addition to reviewing some accomplishments the blog post by Anesh Chopra, the Federal Chief Technology Officer, indicated, “We will identify best practices for public participation in government and suggest metrics that will allow agencies to assess progress toward the goal of becoming more participatory.”

The post posed these questions:

  • What are the appropriate measures for tracking and evaluating participation efforts in agency Open Government Plans?
  • What should be the minimum standard of good participation?
  • How should participation activities be compared across agencies with different programs, amounts of regulatory activity, budgets, staff sizes, etc.?
  • What are the most effective forms of technology and web tools to encourage public participation, engage with the private sector/non-profit and academic communities, and provide the public with greater and more meaningful opportunities to influence agencies’ plans?
  • What are possible mechanisms for agencies to increase the level of diversity of viewpoints and backgrounds brought to bear in their activities and decisions?
  • What are the most effective strategies for ensuring that participation is well-informed?
  • What are some examples of success stories involving strong public participation, as well as less-than-successful efforts, and what lessons can be drawn from them?

Comments are to be sent to opengov@ostp.gov by Jan. 3, 2012. 

Canada Announces Consultations

Canada has announced plans to hold a Twitter Town Hall on Dec. 15 as part of the federal government’s official consultation on the open government partnership.

For 45 minutes in French, then 45 minutes in English, Clement will participate in a moderated Twitter town hall. The discussions will be hosted on the official Treasury Board Twitter accounts @TBS_Canada in English and @SCT_Canada in French.

 “We want to hear from Canadians on how we can advance the Open Government initiative in Canada,” Treasury Board President Tony Clement said in a statement. “The valuable input we receive will help us develop an action plan for the International Open Government Partnership and help make the Government of Canada more accessible to Canadians.”

OGP Founders’ Plans Given Cloud Tags

The Sunlight Foundation analyzed the national action plans of the eight founding members, creating “tag clouds based on the text of each plan that we hope will provide some insights into the similarities and differences between them.”

“We realize that tag clouds only provide surface-level information, but in this case we found them to be a good way to start thinking about the plans, according to a blog post. “As you would expect, some major commonalities include frequent uses of the terms government, data, and public. More interesting are some of the unexpected terms that show up, including poverty (Philippines), gender (Norway), and corruption (South Africa).”

The OGP is also the subject of a Dec. 6 Sunlight Foundation blog post, to be a three-part series by Matt Rosenberg, founder and editor of Public Data Ferret, a project of the non-profit Public Eye Northwest in Seattle, Washington. The first one is titled, “Global Open Gov: What’s The Secret Sauce?”

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