11 November 2013

A monumental anniversary.

The aspirations for good government of a number of the 1200 enthusiasts at the London Open Government Summit at the beginning of November include explicit transparency as the process for shining through blinkered policies like those that led to the implosion of European societies in 1914 and the exhaustion by 1918 of their national economies, consequent upon the ‘Great War’

The extent to which countries are seen to meet Open Government standards is somewhat variable – and possibly dependent on the eye of the beholder – as shown by the ratings given in comparable surveys published in conjunction with the Open Government Summit.  The Open Knowledge Foundation published its findings as the first Open Government Index; the Open Data Institute published its research as the first Open Data Barometer.

New Zealand, rated fourth in the Open Government Barometer, shared eighth place with Australia in the Open Government Index.  A constant is that the United Kingdom and the United States were the most highly rated in both surveys.

But these lead states would have been squirming with the Aruna Roy question put to the US Secretary of State at a plenary session: “There’s more transparency in governments, there’s more accountability,” she said. “And at the same time, there are more restrictive laws being passed by all governments today than ever before and there is an attempt at surveillance by my government and your government. Why is this happening?”

John Kerry “… defended the motives of US intelligence agencies, insisting no-one innocent was being abused and that surveillance … had prevented many terrorist plots, but acknowledged that trust needed to be restored and that surveillance had, in some cases, gone too far…”

The distinctions between the surveys are perhaps more in matters measured than the evaluations per se. The top ten of both surveys rank more or less the same countries – the striking differences occur further down the list with Korea, Estonia, Japan, Spain and Israel being part of the top 20 on the Barometer, but  excluded in favour of Moldova, Bulgaria Malta and Portugal on the Index.

The Barometer assessed 77 countries while the Index assessed 70, both including only a minority of Open Government Partnership member states. The Barometer includes a ‘radar’ image of survey findings of the participating countries.  That for New Zealand is somewhat eccentric in pattern suggesting that there is much room for improvement in some of the elements assessed.

The Index asked about the availability and accessibility of information in ten key areas –including government spending, election results,  transport timetables, and pollution levels. The Barometer survey explored the adoption of the Open Government Declaration principles,  including right to information laws, the penetration of OG Declaration in layers of government, whether there was much demand for open data and the extent to which there was training and encouragement of innovation regarding open data.

Open Government Barometer 2013 Open Government Index 2013
United Kingdom 1        1 United Kingdom
United States 2        2 United States
Sweden 3        3 Denmark
New Zealand 4        4 Norway
Norway 5        5 Netherlands
Denmark 5        6 Finland
Australia 7        7 Sweden
Canada 8        8 New Zealand
Germany 9        8 Australia
France 10     10 Canada
Netherlands 10     11 Iceland
Republic of Korea 12     12 Moldova
Iceland 12     13 Bulgaria
Estonia 14     15 Malta
Finland 14     15 Italy
Japan 14     16 France
Spain 17     17 Austria
Austria 18     18 Portugal
Israel 18     19 Slovenia
Italy 20     20 Switzerland
Russia 20