Sunday 9 December 2018

Open Government's back slapping report

The Australian Open Government Partnership (OGP) have given themselves a glowing report card. Yes, it is great that Australia is working through OGP goals, but I wish they'd acknowledge the difficulties in achieving the goals so that we can focus on real solutions. I'll pick on just one report item:

  • OGP Commitment 5.2: Enhance public participation in government decision making. 
  • OGP Assessed Progress: Substantial. 
  • My Assessment: Tick the box participation has been achieved, but effective public participation is hard and there is much more to be done
Along with a number of technologist and open source community members, we responded to the OGP's last call for comment with a detailed set of practical recommendations? We are yet to hear if our report was understood, or considered. To be fair, our recommendations are detailed, are contrary to current government practices, and would be difficult to investigate and address. But the potential to become as effective as open communities is huge and worth investigating.
So before claiming "substantial progress" in public participation, please assign someone with sufficient technical capability to understand our report, and sufficient mandate to initiate improvements.

Reiterating our prior recommendations:
  • Acknowledge that the indicators for success are more than just “value for money” and “mitigation of risk”. 
  • Measure and prioritise: 
    • “Effectiveness of collaboration”, 
    • “Sustainability in the face of rapid innovation”, and 
    • “Resilience to monopolistic behaviours”. 
  • Develop an “Open Government Maturity Model” which describes open government goals and the processes required to achieve them.
  • Measure effectiveness at realising open government goals.
  • Arm decision makers with accessible, evidence based research into what works, so they can trust, select and defend collaborative strategies which are often counter-intuitive within traditional hierarchically managed organisations.
  • Use, extend, or create open technologies, in that order:
    1. Use existing open material if it exists;
    2. Otherwise extend and give back;
    3. As a last resort, create your own system.
  • Embrace modular architectures backed by open standards.
  • Prioritise initiatives which can attract and sustain participation from multiple contributors and organisations.
  • Promote collaboration between all levels of government, and between nations.
  • Invest in the communities of the projects you depend upon. Ensure there is funding to maintain a core team. Reduce barriers to entry in order to attract a wide contributor base. Develop indicators for reporting on the success of these investment strategies.
  • Consider strategies to flatten government’s spending cycles, especially for community based projects. 
  • Prioritise agile, iterative development methodologies over “big bang”, “whole of government” purchases.

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