Background and Goals of Open Government Partnership
Open Government Partnership also known as OGP started in the year 2011. This initiative started globally by the active enthusiasm of leaders across the world and the civil society as a whole. The goal of this initiative is to reinforce the democratic values in the modern society and all around the world. Several governments around the world have taken an active part in this initiative. To build a more participatory and more responsible and inclusive governance, leaders and civil society organisations have come forward in this initiative. According to the report of the official website of Open Government Partnership, 77 countries and 76 local governments are active partners in this initiative. The main aim of this report is to brief the new MP in the Australian Parliament about the importance of open government initiatives in Australia and around the world. In the context of Australia on a national level, Open Government initiatives have been undertaken first in the year 2015. In the same year, Australia became an actively participatory member of the Open Government Partnership. This active participation has opened a new horizon of opportunities for the Australian government as well as the citizens of Australia in terms of reinforcing the democratic values in society by implementing the actions of open government and government recordkeeping by enhancing accountability and responsibility towards the citizens of the country.
This briefing paper also aims at outlining the particularly important societal trends that have been an active driving force behind the open government initiatives. The report will also highlight the issues of privacy, and the existing legislation related to government recordkeeping and archives. The report will also contain a brief summary of the findings of the research conducted for the purpose of helping the new member of parliament.
This section of the report will duly highlight the importance, particular trends, relevance of the legislation and also the implications of those actions by the government of Australia (regional and national) to gain a better knowledge of the open government initiatives. Before delving into the effects and implications, this section will also discuss the societal background in Australia and the world that have led to the active consideration of the open government and its different implications on government recordkeeping.
It can be said without a shadow of a doubt that rapid technological advancement has led to many socio-economic as well as political changes around the world. To reinforce the democratic values in the modern societies and also to establish more proactive and responsible governments, the civil society organisations and world leaders have come forward to form the basis of open government that fosters a higher transparency. The technological development in the recent decades in relation to the transparency of data has actively led to changes in trends of government recordkeeping. The governments around the world generate a vast amount of data from drivers’ licenses to land mutation records, and the technological advancement has opened a greater opportunity for reusing and redistributing that vast amount of data. Positive results in the development of mobile technologies have also opened newer opportunities for the civil society to access the government data and decision-making processes. According to the opinion of Hansson, Belkacem & Ekenberg (2015), open government initiatives around the world have been largely driven by the issue of creating a larger and more powerful participation of common people. The authors have also highlighted the importance of decentralised technologies in handling data of large amounts that have led to the evolution of open government initiatives in countries across the world.
Open Government Initiatives in Australia
An increased amount of social media presence of citizens has also led to a greater amount of consciousness to be more engaged in the decision-making processes of the governments. In the case of regional governance, the use of social media has led to positive results in instilling a larger transparency in governance. People can actively participate in their governance, especially in terms of assessing the issues being addressed. In terms of the financial activities, transparency in the actions of the governments has become more accessible by the utilisation of the latest developments in technology. Historically, both internally and externally, it has been difficult to address questions about where and how government money is spent. Government accounting systems have received criticism from citizens for being opaque and difficult to understand. Recent technological advances are making a change possible. The online accounting systems now make the government chequebook accessible to citizens clearly and simply, providing citizens with direct access to government expenditures across departments.
It is widely acknowledged that, until recently, relatively few people in western civilizations were actively engaged in or involved in any manner with the records made by those societies, or in the decision of what should be kept for the long term. Despite the fact that governments recognised the value and relevance of creating and managing documents, records and archives management was rarely regarded as a crucial activity for organisational performance or as particularly significant to the average person. Archives were thought to be primarily the realm of historians, despite the fact that they could be a source of intrigue with their troves of papers and the potential for scandal or mayhem. According to the views of Wirtz & Birkmeyer (2015), in practice and science, "open government" is frequently used. Open government has received a great deal of attention since President Obama's 2009 Memorandum to the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies. Various authors have applied the concept to different domains, leading to a diverse understanding of the concept. The authors have also highlighted the changes in the social outlook that has led to the positive changes in the initiatives toward open governments. The societal changes regarding the increased number of tendencies to participate in the actions of governments have also led to the formation of the open government initiatives. The ability to participate effectively is hampered without access to information. Participation in itself is a prerequisite for gaining increased access to information, but increased access to information does not necessarily contribute to higher levels of participation. Some politicians and authors have narrowed down "open government" to the concept of collaborating with the public sector (Wijnhoven, Ehrenhard & Kuhn, 2015).
Although no organisation is infallible, digital recordkeeping can be used inappropriately in the public sector. It is important to carefully consider both the local capacity as well as the legal requirements for evidence when designing a records management system. A departmental system architecture isn't always the best approach, regardless of the state or local level. For a variety of reasons, a full analysis is frequently skipped if time and targets are tight. Organisations in the public sector might not be aware of the existence of or the loss, theft, or destruction of important records. Administrative efforts are wasted by creating duplicate documents without a reliable records management system. In order to keep (unknown) extra records, a significant amount of physical or IT space may be required. This will put an unnecessary burden on agency budgets. As a result, there is no comprehensive accountability and governance of record assets across organizations. In part, this is because agencies managers do not always understand, prioritize, or allocate resources for information management. These practices sometimes have been located to have inconsistencies. Australian agencies often have failed to consider the information’s lifecycle, that in turn has reduced the accountability that was being aimed for through the open government initiatives.
Societal Trends Driving Open Government
To break down the data statistically, 63% of VAGO, Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) and OV reports have highlighted the issues regarding accountability. Another 43% have highlighted challenges in recordkeeping responsibility and 39% have reported challenges regarding the integrity of information. A common challenge that has been highlighted in all of these reports is related to the lack of effective and visionary leadership.
Discussion regarding the ethical and legal issues related to open government initiatives is of utmost importance. The first importance should be directed at the understanding of the ethical issues that may arise in the open government initiatives. Schapper et al. (2020) have highlighted the ethical considerations related to open government initiatives in terms of freedom of information and transparency of the actions of the governments. With the changing landscape of technological development and changes in the outlook of society regarding the openness of government decisions, concerns related to the accessibility of information has changed a lot. The Freedom of Information Act of 1978 in Australia was the first in the world in a Westminster-style democracy. Australia's counterparts in New Zealand and Canada had already passed identical legislation by the time it was introduced. Following these early precedents, several countries, like the United Kingdom, have introduced legislation. In over 76 nations throughout the world, there has been a recent appearance of laws aimed at providing admittance to government information. Despite the spread of access to information legislation, our understanding of their influence continues to evolve. A lot of the analysis of the influence of government disclosure laws tries to compare different parts or decisions made under FOI legislation. These comparisons are frequently based on high-level indicators or aggregated data, which are typically provided by government entities responsible for administering or championing the Act, and thus suffer from a lack of systematic and coordinated data collection and aggregation. Other studies seeking to compare the practical operation of access laws through the lodgement of standardised requests are contrasted with descriptive analyses of the presence of certain exogenously valued aspects within the legislation. Some groups, particularly journalists, have focused on the utility of access rules for their own purposes. The objective value of the criteria used as the comparison's foundation is called into doubt. Requiring access improves record-keeping and information-gathering efficiency, as well as consultation responsiveness and the ability to correct faulty or incomplete data. Disclosure can also encourage strong governance legitimacy or credibility, reducing the costs of creating or enforcing agreements or functioning properly, and allowing for more successful operation of public programs typically.
In the context of Australia, the open government practices are spread across the federal and state governments. The Australian government is currently undertaking eight plans in the 2018-2020 action plan related to open government initiatives. Furthermore, to this concept and overview of recordkeeping, the sector of administration is responsible for the effective and set of input of the formation, receipt, preservation, use, and destruction of records, along with processes for capturing and recording of information about the company or organization. In the declaration document for the Open Government Action Plan for the United States of America, the government had laid out the actions taken for enriching further openness of the actions of the government to increase public participation in the decision-making procedures of the federal government ("THE OPEN GOVERNMENT PARTNERSHIP", 2015). The US federal government in 2015 had also taken important initiatives regarding the expansion of accessibility of educational materials published by the government.
Technological Advancements and Data Transparency
Attard et al. (2015) in a systematic review have pointed out the implications of open government initiatives on the government recordkeeping. Positive implications of open government initiatives include the reduction of corruption and other negative factors in the government decision-making procedures. An increased level of participation from the citizens is also another positive implication of open government initiatives. Government data portals also face a number of cultural challenges that prevent them from achieving their full potential. Public bodies, for example, maybe hesitant to share their data. This could be due to a variety of factors, including a sense that it will take a lot of time and effort, or that releasing government data could backfire. However, thanks to the promotion of civil society organisations, this attitude is steadily shifting around the world. OGD are innovations that arise as a result of new government services being provided through information technology (IT) platforms. From an innovation standpoint, understanding the factors of OGD adoption in government agencies can assist uncover and obtaining insight into the issues connected with this developing trend (Wang & Lo, 2016). Ølnes, Ubacht & Janssen (2017) highlight the importance of application of the blockchain technology in forming a more responsible and open government. The application of blockchain technology will also increase the life-cycle of the government collected data but also prove to be financially beneficial in terms of recordkeeping of the governments.
To summarise, it can be said that the recent trends and development/advancements in technology have played a key role in the development of the trends related to open government initiatives. The development related to blockchain technology and other technologies that help in increasing the lifecycle of government-collected data has positively contributed to the open government initiatives. Apart from the technological innovations, huge changes in the societal outlook have also contributed to the trends in openness of governments through different platforms including social media. Important concerns related to the reduction of corruption (both social and financial), have also led to a serious consideration toward more effective open government initiatives. The ethical and legal considerations in the open government initiatives play a significantly important role in the consideration of open government initiatives. The research conducted for this particular briefing has also noted that it is important to pay minute attention to the social trends related to record-keeping in open government initiatives.
In conclusion to the discussion of the above report, a few points should be highlighted. Technological advancement, societal changes in attitudes and the increased participatory outlook of people in general play the most important roles in the discussion of open government initiatives. The report has categorically highlighted the contributing factors of open government initiatives, including the discussion of the relevant legislation that led to the current development in Australia and around the world. The report has also highlighted the ethical and legal considerations in terms of implementing the technologies related to open government initiatives. Examples of open government practices have also been cited as examples to gain a better understanding of the current trend and the future of the open government initiatives. A brief summary of the findings has also been attached with the present report.
Attard, J., Orlandi, F., Scerri, S., & Auer, S. (2015). A systematic review of open government data initiatives. Government information quarterly, 32(4), 399-418. Doi: 10.1016/j.giq.2015.07.006
Hansson, K., Belkacem, K., & Ekenberg, L. (2015). Open government and democracy: A research review. Social Science Computer Review, 33(5), 540-555. Doi: 10.1177%2F0894439314560847
Ølnes, S., Ubacht, J., & Janssen, M. (2017). Blockchain in government: Benefits and implications of distributed ledger technology for information sharing. Government Information Quarterly, 34(3), 355-364. Doi: 10.1016/j.giq.2017.09.007
Schapper, J. H., McLeod, S., Hedgcock, D., & Babb, C. (2021). Freedom of Information for Planning Research and Practice in Australia: Examples, Implications, and Potential Remedies. Urban Policy and Research, 39(1), 106-119. Doi: 10.1080/08111146.2020.1853522
Stewart, D. (2015). Assessing Access to Information in Australia: The impact of freedom of information laws on the scrutiny and operation of the Commonwealth government. New accountabilities, new challenges, 79-158. Doi: https://library.oapen.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.12657/33140/569093.pdf?sequence=1#page=93
The open government partnership. Obamawhitehouse.archives.gov. (2015). Retrieved 18 April 2022, from https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/final_us_open_government_national_action_plan_3_0.pdf.
Wang, H. J., & Lo, J. (2016). Adoption of open government data among government agencies. Government Information Quarterly, 33(1), 80-88. Doi: 10.1016/j.giq.2015.11.004
Wijnhoven, F., Ehrenhard, M., & Kuhn, J. (2015). Open government objectives and participation
motivations. Government information quarterly, 32(1), 30-42. Doi: 10.1016/j.giq.2014.10.002
Wirtz, B. W., & Birkmeyer, S. (2015). Open government: Origin, development, and conceptual
perspectives. International Journal of Public Administration, 38(5), 381-396. Doi: 10.1080/01900692.2014.942735
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