Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Open Government: Assessing participation and co-creation

The Open Government Partnership has released new standards for participation and co-creation. So how does New Zealand measure up? Badly. Here's a quick look through the basic requirements for "throughout the OGP cycle":

  • National OGP website: Pass. There is one, at
  • Lead agency clearly identified: Fail. There's a buried note that the Minister of State Services is the responsible Minister, but nothing about agencies. Contact details are hidden behind a form and there is no hint at where they go.
  • Documents published in all administrative languages: Mixed. OGP documents are published only in English, which is normal for the NZ government. But Maori is an official language of New Zealand, and publication in Maori seems to be what is required.
  • Document repository of OGP documents: Fail. The official site contains nothing beyond the current Action Plan. There is some older material at the SSC's site, but it is far from complete. Old consultation documents and IRM reports are notable by their absence.
  • Information communication to stakeholders in advance: Fail. The NZ government has extremely poor consultation practices, despite a "commitment" in the previous Action Plan to improve them.
  • Multi-stakeholder forum: Mixed. There is such a forum - the Expert Advisory Panel - but it does not meet regularly (and indeed, apparently has not met since the Action Plan was developed in the middle of last year).
  • Multi-stakeholder forum accepts inputs from civil society: Unknown, as it no longer appears to meet. Base don passed practice it is unlikely though.
  • Remote participation in multi-stakeholder forum: Unknown, as there is no information on whether it even accepts outside input.
  • Direct communication with stakeholders on NAP process questions? Fail. Based on past Action Plan processes, SSC is not interested in hearing from us.
  • Outreach and awareness raising? Fail. Other than a passive website, the government does nothing to promote knowledge of the OGP or encourage participation except during Action Plan development.
  • Multi-stakeholder forum is independent of government: Fail. The EAP is controlled by SSC, meets at its demand, and considers its agenda. It does not set its own agenda, choose its own membership, or meet independently of SSC.
  • Multi-stakeholder forum includes even balance of government and non-government representatives: Technical fail. In fact, the membership is entirely non-government.
  • Non-government members are selected via a fair and transparent process: Fail. They're selected in secret by SSC.
  • Multi-stakeholder forum proactively communicates with public: Fail. Apart from the lack of meetings, they do not issue statements, and minutes are controlled by SSC.
  • Multi-stakeholder forum includes Minister: Fail.

This certainly doesn't look very good. And while its a new standard, its base don best practice, things our government should have been doing anyway. The government is going to have to significantly improve if it wants to avoid further criticism from the OGP Independent Reporting Mechanism on this issue.