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Irish OGP Progress Report Launch: opening remarks by Paul Maassen

- March 14, 2016 in Denis Parfenov, Events, Ireland, IRM, IRM Report, Martin Wallace, midterm, OGP, OGP Ireland, OGPirl, open-government, opengov, Paul Maassen

ogp ireland

9 March 2016

The Printing House at Trinity College Dublin

Good evening ladies and gentleman,

I have been following the Irish journey in OGP since June 2012 when two active citizens came to me with the idea of campaigning for Irish participation in the partnership. With a smart advocacy strategy they managed to get more civil society interested and more to get minister Howlin interested. And the rest is history as they say. With Raj’s excellent report on the formal participation experience of Ireland in OGP to date as it’s history book.

Let me start with two complements. First, a complement for Ireland on not only producing a strong set of commitments, but also making very substantial progress on delivering them. And when I say Ireland I mean those actors in civil society and in government that made this happen. Second, a complement for Raj on his report. It is quite an achievement to capture a countries journey in OGP in general, but the Irish one is perhaps even more complex. I think you managed to capture the positives and the negatives well, naming what needs to be named, doing it elegantly without shying away.

I will try to do the same while framing Ireland’s performance within the partnership and making some suggestions.

FRAME

OGP now has 69 participating countries, over 100 Action Plans that combined have close to 2500 commitments. The last couple of months 25 reports have been released for public comments. Those reports cover 407 commitments in total. Action plans range from 4 commitments to 15 in general, but we did have cases like Ireland with 30 and Uruguay with 40. So Ireland is on the high end

If we look at ambition, and use starred criteria I can tell you that out of these 407 commitments 27 are starred (meaning measurable, relevant to open government values, potentially transformative and substantially of fully implemented. The stars per country range from 1 to 4 (only Ireland has 4 stars, 4 countries have 2 stars, 4 countries have 3 stars, 2 countries have 1 star).

On issues covered the trends are access to information and public accountability (based on the frequency of their relevance to OGP values.

In the bigger picture Ireland is doing well if you look at the commitments. Across the 30 commitments many are relevant, many are substantially of fully delivered, the plan covers a broad range of issues and not just politically easy ones. On the process side there is more to be done in Ireland – and not just in Ireland.

CONSULTATION

Trend is that countries are learning and complying better with the official OGP process requirements. We have seen improvements in all countries from first action plan to second. Meeting the requirements doesn’t necessarily mean a national process was of high quality though. As OGP we have realized that we have to revisit the requirements and bring in new elements that look at more qualitative aspects like the depth of the consultation – is civil society consulted or do they co-create with government, is the process open and inclusive or not? We also realized that one important factor for success is what we call the permanent dialogue mechanism a country puts in place. Raj calls it the Implementation Review Group. The name doesn’t matter. What is important is that there is a way to have a continuous dialogue between actors – not just for the development of a plan, but also for implementation and monitoring. The best examples we have are really where civil society and government co-create OGP in a space they manage together.

I actually thought the consultation for the plan in Ireland was pretty good. And I watched it very closely. Yes, there could have been more citizens in the room, yes it could have been taken outside of Dublin, yes, the government could have negotiated with civil society more directly at the political level about priorities. Yes civil society could have been more strategic in bringing the 62 recommendations down to 10 Big Asks. But at least there was a lively debate resulting in 62 asks, there was government funding for the consultation, there was feedback on the proposals made and many made it into the plan and minister Howlin did put his political weight behind OGP and behind the commitments.

A lot has been said about the way civil society works and works together. I don’t think I need to touch on that, except two things. I absolutely realize that for civil society to be actively engaged in something so important and so complex as changing the culture of government asks for resources. And in western countries it is almost inevitable that that funding comes from government. Second, I have seen Irish civil society smartly advocate and work together twice and got what they wanted as a result. First in getting Ireland into OGP, second in rallying together to get the FOI fees abolished. It shows it is possible and when it happens it can pay off.

RECOMMENDATION

Coming to a close with a few recommendations for the future of Ireland in OGP. And of course I realize you have just had elections and they have brought a bit of shake-up. And I also realize Raj has recommendations in his report. They all are very solid and important.

First, to open up government and change the culture is not a technical fix. It is much more complex and political. Look at the commitments on lobbying regulation or whistleblower protection. For OGP to stay relevant in Ireland it is imperative to have a political champion in the new government with the will and power to drive this agenda forward. This is an opportunity for civil society to take the initiative.

Second, if commitments are not delivered by June it is great to re-commit – or differently put – still deliver what you promise. This should not be an excuse to commit to new, bold and ambitious things that combat corruption, or promote the uptake of open data, or make public spending more transparent and accountable.

Third, there are a lot of commitments in the plan to do more about participation, whether around all new policies or at local level. Ireland has a lot of good experience and should build on that. Not in the last place to make the next action plan development process even better and more inclusive, really pushing the boundaries on co-creation. And doing it in a way that really adds value to the outcome and for the parties that invest time and energy. Let’s not create participation opportunities just for the sake of it.

Fourth: be a leader in OGP on some of the stuff you are really good at like whistleblowing and lobbying – and learn from others on topics you are struggling on. That is part of why you are in OGP.

And finally: get that permanent dialogue going between government and civil society. It is not that difficult. You have done it on different topics and at different moments. We have dozens of strong examples by now on how to do it – including on selecting the people at the table and shaping the rules of the dialogue.

Let me leave it here. As I said, I have been closely following the Irish path to government reform for the last 4 years and look forward to the next 4!

Paul Maassen, Director for Civil Society Engagement at the Open Government Partnership

More information:

Background:

 

 

 

 

Open Knowledge Ireland welcomes Minister Howlin’s announcement that Government has approved the removal of an application fee for Freedom of Information Requests

- July 1, 2014 in Freedom of Information, OGPirl, Open Government Partnership, Press Release

 1st July 2014 okirlogo

Open Knowledge Ireland - dedicated to promoting open data and open knowledge for citizens (openknowledge.ie)

  Open Knowledge Ireland welcomes today’s announcement by the Minister that the suggested reforms to the FOI fees regime includes the removal of the €15 application fee for non-personal requests. On April 10th 2014 Open Knowledge Ireland together with a squad of Freedom of Information advocates for Ireland wrote an Open Letter to Minister Brendan Howlin asking to leverage the Government’s commitment to the Open Government Partnership as an opportunity to remove fees at all stages of FOI and AIE requests and appeals. The letter was signed by 74 signatories urging the Minister to consider the points outlined for his upcoming FOI bill. On May 7th, at the Civil Society Day, which was held on the eve of the OGP Europe regional meeting, the upfront fees charged in Ireland for submission of FOI requests were brought to the attention of 120 civil society and government representatives from 30 countries.

And today we are pleased to see the Minister is making a step in the right direction!

Denis Parfenov, Open Knowledge Ambassador for Ireland and one of the Founders of the Open Knowledge Chapter in Ireland, in his reaction today said that he “warmly welcomes this announcement”.

This is a great success story for all citizens and FOI advocates who were involved in pushing to drop FOI fees as part of Ireland’s first OGP Action Plan. Open Knowledge Ireland together with Irish citizens and other Irish civil society organisations had been pushing to include a commitment on free FOI requests into the 2 year Action Plan and we are very pleased that the Minister has considered the recommendations of Irish Civil Society OGP Network.

Flora, Co-Founder at Open Knowledge Ireland gives an early reaction to the announcement and has collated early voices from passionate FOI advocates in Ireland:

Open Knowledge Ireland is adopting a cautious position to the FOI reforms announced today. While we’re welcoming the announcements and Minister Howlin’s consideration of the Open Government Partnership principles, we still need to wait until we see the full set of proposed amendments in order to make an accurate assessment of the impact of all the changes.

 

In the following find our low down of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly + Next Steps

The Good

The Bad

And the Ugly

    • How far reaching is the commitment to openness really? The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform “has asked that we [the civil society network involved in providing feedback on the proposed OGP Action Plan] would review the sentence in the CS Foreword expressing disappointment that more progress wasn’t made in relation to the abolition of fees” in light of the announcement that was made today.
      1. The request was sent not to the whole network but to one or more persons that the Department chooses to work together with.
      2. We are being asked to change the wording without having insights to the actual suggested amendments which are more than likely ready to go and could be provided for insight.
      3. Good to see there was an outcry by FOI advocates that the wording should not be changed until promises have turned into actions and until detailed amendments have been shared.
 

Next Steps

- We really need to wait and see the actual suggested amendments and the new bill before we can make any quality assessment. In the meantime these documents provide more detail about the suggested changes. Some of those raise questions:                    Cross-posted:    

OGP Jam Round Up

- June 25, 2014 in Action Plan, DPER, Events, OGP, OGP Action Plan, OGP Ireland, OGP jam, OGPirl, Open Data Ireland, Open Knowledge Ireland, open-government

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 14.51.02   On 8-9 May 2014 over 300 representatives of governments and civil society from over 30 countries took part in the OGP European regional meeting hosted by Minister Howlin of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in Dublin Castle. On day one of the conference the Minister presented Ireland’s 1st Draft OGP National Action Plan and between May 8th and June 7th the Minister invited feedback on this Draft (PDF). Open Knowledge Ireland participated in a joint working group with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform between February and April 2014 and continuously helped to refine the Action Plan to help make it more meaningful to all Irish citizens. However, there was a lot of red tape and to date many suggestions have not been adopted. Another shortfall is that there was no public engagement on behalf of the Minister or the relevant Government Unit. So in the spirit of the OGP principles of citizen engagement and participation, Open Knowledge Ireland, with support of the OGP, held an OGP Jam on Saturday, 7th June to generate tools and ideas on how to make the OGP Action Plan meaningful to Irish citizens. Around ten people participated in a collaborative and creative event supported by Microsoft Ireland and Dovetail Technologies. The main benefit of the OGP Jam was that we were able to work with other citizens and use new technologies to explore how we can turn a government document into something that makes sense to the average citizen. What follows is a brief story around what was achieved on the day. The main goal of OGP Jam  was to make Ireland’s first OGP Action Plan more concise and specific in the areas of “Open Data”, “Citizen Participation” and “Trust”. Over the course of the Jam, our volunteers concentrated on three key areas of Ireland’s first OGP Action Plan. The participants concluded that in order to make the Action Plan more actionable, measurable, readable and understandable the Action Plan in its current format needs to be improved by including the following: [NOTE: All suggested dates and partner organisations are to be confirmed with the Irish Government, these are our suggestions]
  • Assigning partner organisations (which may follow up with the government throughout the implementation period). The Irish OGP Action Plan needs to be populated with Partner Organisations that the Government can partner with the government to achieve their goals. Other Action Plans including for example the UK OGP Action Plan have demonstrated that this is a solid methodology for Action Plan implementation:
For example: Establishment of best practice standards for Open Data Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 14.34.09  
  • Make commitments SMART wherever possible. Remember, that’s Specific-Measurable-Attainable-Realistic-Timebound. Applying SMART classification to tasks is the only way we can interpret if and when a commitment was completed.
    • You cannot easily see this from the 27 pages of the Action Plan. But if you look at it in a structured way and strip down the text into what’s relevant, not many commitments are SMART, yet.
  • Create a roadmap for NAP implementation over the 2014-2016 period
As per OGP guidelines, Action Plans should be written in plain language with minimal use of jargon or technical terms. So the idea was to simplify the document and make it more accessible to a wider audience through clarity, precision and specification.
Imagine going from this: Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 14.39.12

 To this (actual content! – and this is only a very simple prototype!!):

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 14.43.03The community members who attended the OGP Jam created this model and to a large extent  filled it with possible values. In many cases the time-frames, partners, goals, challenges, etc. for each commitment are still unknown. But we have provided this model to the Government Reform Unit looking after the OGP Action Plan as a recommendation on how to make the Action Plan more accessible to everyone. Our work will continue throughout the implementation phase of the Action Plan and you can follow our progress here (http://openknowledge.ie/ogp-action-plan/).
The OGP Jam is storified here and you’ll find photos of the event here.