Citizens’ Participatory Competence

 

Does the government publish data and information in a way that strengthens citizens’ capacity to hold the government accountable?

EUOECD
 
The government publishes data and information in a comprehensive, timely and user-friendly way.
10
Finland
According to the Statistics Act (280/2004), there are four official statistical authorities in Finland.
Statistics Finland, the Natural Resources Institute Finland, the National Institute for Health and Welfare, and Finnish Customs. Each authority is mandated to collect data. In addition, there are a number of other authorities that produce official statistical materials. Statistical figures are published by Official Statistics of Finland, which publishes nearly 300 statistical datasets covering 26 different topics. The basic data of the Official Statistics of Finland is publicly available on the internet, free of charge.
Citations:
Tilastokeskus, “Katsaus kansalliseen tilastotoimeen 2015,” https://www.stat.fi/static/media/uploads/org/tilastotoimi/katsaus_tilastotoimeen_2015.pdf
National Statistical Service, https://www.stat.fi/org/tilastotoimi/index_en.html
Norway
The government publishes data and information, making it easier for citizens to be informed and to hold the government accountable.

Statistical data is easily available for free online and lots of public data is made publicly available on the internet. Many ministries and agencies help to interpret raw data and publish summaries to make the key aspects of the data more easily accessible for citizens, without providing too much spin. Most governmental bodies also publish annual reports, which cover financial statements, policy goals and achievements, and risk assessments.

In addition, the annual report from the general auditor, the Transparency Act, weekly parliamentary questions and a lively media landscape ensure that information about government activities (or the lack of activity) is made public.
UK
The United Kingdom is highly committed to its open government agenda. It is a founding member of the Open Government Partnership, which since its beginning in 2011 has become a major global advocate for citizens’ free access to government data. Parliament, the government and the civil service reliably and timely publish all not-restricted documents on their websites.

The UK government has a long history of publishing official statistics, and since 2007 this has been governed by the Statistics and Registration Service Act. The act created the UK Statistics Authority, a non-ministerial department, with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) as an executive agency within the department (ONS previously reported into HMT). The act also created the Office for Statistics Regulation, which sets the Code of Practice for Official Statistics and oversees the accreditation of “National Statistics.” Beyond the official statistical system, the government publishes a wide array of data and is a world leader in open data. The UK government publishes an extensive array of transparency data (e.g., senior public servants’ salaries, workforce data, special adviser pay, and details of ministerial and senior officials’ meetings) – over 9,000 items on the government website (gov.uk) are categorized as “transparency data” and over 10,000 FOI requests have been published. The government also has a dedicated data portal (data.gov.uk), which makes publicly accessible over 47,000 datasets published by the UK government and other public authorities. Furthermore, the United Kingdom alongside Canada ranked 1 out of 30 governments in the latest Open Data Barometer (2016 – 2017) and in the OECD’s latest OURdata index (2017) the United Kingdom ranked 4th out of 31 countries.

Committee and working group meetings are streamed via a range of online platforms (e.g., YouTube and FacebookLive). Furthermore, the government provides an efficient online search-engine for government documents (data.gov.uk). Meanwhile, the bi-annual Open Government Action Plans, which set goals and standards for open government in the United Kingdom, are negotiated in cooperation with the UK Open Government Network (OGN), a coalition of active citizens and civil society organizations.
9
Denmark
All governmental agencies have websites where a lot of information is made publicly available. When new policy initiatives are suggested or approved, the responsible ministers will usually hold press conferences allowing the media – print, online and TV – to inform citizens and debate the proposals. TV2’s dedicated news program, TV2 News, is very good at covering new policy events, and broadcasts several programs during the week in which well-informed journalists and experts debate the news. Important parliamentary debates are covered by the media and sometimes directly broadcast by TV channels. Furthermore, Denmark has the “access to public administration files act” of 1985, which replaced the Public Records Act of 1970.
Citations:
Jørgen Grønnegård Christensen og Jørgen Elklit (red.), Det Demokratiske System. 4. udgave. Hans Reitzels Forlag, 2016.

THE DANISH PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION ACT, https://dfcentre.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/2016-02-29-Ombudsmand-The-Act-of-Public-Administration-1985.pdf (Accessed 18 October 2019)
Slovenia
The Slovenian government launched a new and unified open data government portal, OPSI (Odprti podatki Slovenije), in late 2016. Further upgraded in 2019, the portal provides a central catalogue of all the records and databases of Slovenian public bodies, and an extensive range of datasets in machine-readable formats and with an Open Data license. Access to data is largely unrestricted and published in user-friendly formats.
Sweden
Strictly speaking, given the extensive rules about public availability of government documents, government does not have to actively publish material but rather simply ensure that it is available. Thus, withholding information that would be relevant to an assessment of the government’s performance would be difficult. True, there may be incentives for government to seek to avoid the public disclosure of sensitive information, but to do so government would have to produce the legal justification for such an action.
Switzerland
The government and its institutions – in particular the Federal Statistical Office – pursue a highly user-friendly policy of internet-based access to information. Any citizen interested in public policy and having access to the internet will find a large body of qualitative and quantitative data. The transparency act (Bundesgesetz über das Öffentlichkeitsprinzip der Verwaltung, BGÖ) ensures full access to public documents apart from classified information.

The official information bulletin is the most important source of information for citizens to make decisions in direct-democratic votes. Overall, government information policy can be considered comprehensive and enables citizens to fully inform themselves about most aspects of the political system and its policymaking.

However, as the case in 2019 of the Supreme Court overturning the outcome of a popular vote makes clear, this information policy is not flawless and is subject to close scrutiny in a direct democracy. The mistakes made by the Federal Council in delivering erroneous information regarding a vote on the taxation of couples compelled the Court to annul the referendum.
 
The government most of the time publishes data and information in a comprehensive, timely and user-friendly way.
8
Canada
The government of Canada has two offices, the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) and the Office of the Auditor General (OAG), whose mandate is to provide independent analysis on government finances and policies. The PBO is charged with providing impartial information on the state of government finances and its estimates of trends in the Canadian economy. On request, the PBO estimates the cost of any proposal under parliamentary consideration. During the 2019 federal election, the PBO carried out a requested evaluation of the cost of programs contained in the political parties’ campaign platforms. The OAG provides independent information and expert advice on government programs and activities, and the management of its Crown corporations. Both offices serve parliament, but – since reports usually become public information – they provide ample and objective evidence on the finances and performance of government policies and institutions. The reports are made available online, including historic reports, and are generally easy to understand for laypeople. The quality of information contained in the reports, however, depends heavily on the data obtained by the offices. In 2013, the PBO took the previous government to court over its refusal to comply fully with almost half of all information and access to information requests.

Government departments and agencies release information in the form of studies and data on their websites, which allows citizens to hold them accountable. Most of this information is available in both official languages in user friendly formats, including for blind people.

In addition, Canada has a large number of non-governmental think tanks, and policy and research institutes that provide additional information on a range of policy areas, including social policy, political strategy, economics, technology, industry, business and national defense.
Estonia
In line with the overall e-government approach, all public institutions maintain extensive web resources for public use. There have been attempts to harmonize the website architecture of ministries and agencies, but these efforts have only succeeded to a limited extent. As a result, the user-friendliness of web resources varies across institutions. Available information is generally extensive and kept up-to-date, but often too detailed and sophisticated for citizens’ use; retrospective data (both statistics and legal norms) are not always available.
Germany
Open government is a relatively new topic in German politics and policymaking. In 2003, the European Parliament and the European Council issued Directive 2003/98/EC on the re-use of public sector information. The directive’s objective is to make public sector information more readily available to the public and private information providers with minimal bureaucracy. The directive has been changed several times, and was adjusted in 2015. On 13 December 2006, the German Bundestag passed a bill provided for by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (“Informationsweiterverwendungsgesetz”). The bill converted the first EU directive into national law. As the European directive was revised, a newer version of the law was adopted by the Bundestag in May 2015. Overall, the legislation requires that public sector information on social, economic, geographic, climate, tourism, business, patent and education issues be made available to private information suppliers and the general public. It has not been changed substantially since 2015. The federal government published a second National Action Plan on Open Data in September 2019 (following the first in 2014), and is currently working on an open data strategy.

Besides this legal obligation, the statistical offices of the federal and state governments are important sources of information for citizens. These offices provide a wealth of high-quality indicators across a large variety of fields that help citizens to assess the country’s performance. Statistical offices publish data not only through thorough detailed expert reports but also through readable and concise press releases, which are frequently cited by the media. Statistical offices in Germany enjoy a high degree of independence from politics, and have a reputation for providing undistorted data.
Citations:
Bundesministerium für Justiz und Verbraucherschutz (2015):
https://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/iwg/BJNR291300006.html

BMWi-Beirat (2016): Wissenschaftlicher Beirat beim Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie, Mehr Transparenz in der Bildungspolitik, Gutachten des Wissenschaftlichen Beirats beim Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie.
https://www.bmwi.de/Redaktion/DE/Publikationen/Ministerium/Veroeffentl ichung-Wissenschaftlicher-Beirat/wissenschaftlicher-beirat-mehr-transparenz-in-d er-bildungspolitik.html
Japan
E-government issues, particularly services aimed at making public information available to citizens in a secure and timely manner, have been on the government agenda since the 2000s. Current efforts are based on the Basic Plan for the Advancement of Utilizing Public and Private Sector Data and the Policy for Open Data, both released in May 2017. The various branches of government make an overwhelming amount of statistics, data and reports available, with coordinated access through sites like e-Gov, Data.go.jp and e-Stat.

However, ensuring transparency, usability and security remains an ongoing challenge. In late 2018, it was revealed that the Monthly Labor Survey had used an improper methodology for collecting data since 2004, leading to an overestimation of wage growth. Following this exposure, weaknesses in other government statistical measures also became apparent. In a February 2019 survey, 67% of the population indicated that this incident had eroded their trust in government statistics.
Citations:
Government of Japan, Digital Government in Japan, January 2018, https://de.slideshare.net/hiramoto/170119-digital-government-in-japan

English-language access points to major sites: http://www.e-gov.go.jp/en/, http://www.data.go.jp/?lang=english, https://www.e-stat.go.jp/en/

61% think Abe inadequately handles labor survey scandal, The Asahi Shimbun, 19 February 2019, http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201902190053.html
Luxembourg
The Luxembourg state publishes data on all relevant topics that every citizen can access, excluding financial data such as corporate tax breaks (“rulings”). However, a lot of data is provided in French, which is hard to understand for germanophone citizens, and there is a shortage of published data in Luxembourgish. Furthermore, journalists and the public are often unable to understand and evaluate the published data.
Citations:
Statistics portal: https://statistiques.public.lu/en/ Accessed 20 Oct. 2019.
Statistikportal des Großherzogtums Luxemburg: http://adem.public.lu/de/marche-emploi-luxembourg/faits-et-chiffres/statistiques/statec/index.html. Accessed 20 Oct. 2019.
New Zealand
In global comparison, New Zealand performs relatively well when it comes to publishing data and information as a means to strengthening vertical accountability mechanisms. In the 2018 Open Government Index, published by the Open Knowledge Foundation, New Zealand is ranked 8th out of 94 countries. New Zealand enjoys even higher rankings in the 2017 Open Budget Index (ranked joint first out of 101 countries) and the 2016 Open Data Barometer, released by the World Wide Web Foundation (ranked 7th out of 115 countries). New Zealand’s position is relatively lower in the 2017 OECD OURdata Index on Open Government Data (ranked 13th out of 34 countries); however, New Zealand’s score for ensuring public sector data availability and accessibility is still higher than the OECD average. In 2016, the State Services Commission formed a stakeholder advisory group to work with the government on New Zealand’s Open Government Partnership processes. In addition, the government’s administrative data, along with census data, has been integrated into the Integrated Data Infrastructure, which researchers can access by application. Additional data sets, co-designed with indigenous peoples have been developed, focusing on capabilities rather than deficits. This data is also publicly available on request.
Citations:
International Budget Partnership, Open Budget Index (https://www.internationalbudget.org/open-budget-survey/open-budget-index-rankings/)
OECD, Open government data (https://www.oecd.org/gov/digital-government/open-government-data.htm)
Open Government Partnership, Expert Advisory Panel (http://ogp.org.nz/open-government-partnership/expert-advisory-panel/)
Open Knowledge Foundation, Global Open Data Index (https://index.okfn.org/)
World Wide Web Foundation, Open Data Barometer (https://opendatabarometer.org/?_year=2017&indicator=ODB)
South Korea
According to the Open Government Partnership (2018), “the disclosure and usage of public data could make a big impact such as enhancing government transparency, delivering effective and efficient services to public and contributing to the nation’s economic growth.” Korea ranks at the top or near the top of OECD countries on the OECD’s OUR Data Index, which examines the issue of open, usable and reusable government data. A government information portal has been introduced to provide access to government data and information. However, some institutions have proved uncooperative in providing access to information requested by members of the public, making the government less accountable.
Citations:
OECD, Government at a Glance 2017 Database, OUR Data Index
The Government of Republic of Korea. 2017. “100 Policy Tasks: Five-year Plan of the Moon Jae-in Administration.” Korean Culture and Information Service: Seoul.
Open Government Partnership. 2018. “10 Open National Priority Data.” Retrieved November 7 (https://www.opengovpartnership.org/countries/south-korea).
www.open.go.kr
7
Australia
Much government data and information is published online and is readily accessible. Through its data.gov.au initiative, the government has an express commitment to improving the availability and use of government administrative data. That said, it is also the case that there is much information not made available. Ostensibly, this is for reasons such as national security and citizen privacy/confidentiality, but there is little doubt that political factors also play a role.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics, a statutory government agency, provides a considerable and comprehensive amount of data on economic and social conditions in the country, mostly derived from the census conducted every five years and various additional surveys.
Chile
In general terms, the level of digitalization with regard to public information (e.g., commission reports, draft laws, and information on line ministries and government activities) is quite high. Since the implementation of the transparency law of 2008 (Ley de Transparencia), data about the personnel structure and expenditure of public institutions is also publicly accessible. Though some delays in publishing relevant information may occur, and – considering the relatively high educational gap – information and data is not always published in a comprehensive way.
Croatia
Croatia began in mid-2011 its formal participation in the Open Government Partnership (OGP), as a voluntary international initiative that aims to secure commitments from governments to their citizenry to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. A special council known as the Council for the Open Government Partnership Initiative of the government was established as a centralized hub for communication between implementing and monitoring stakeholders. The OGP Council is responsible for the coordination of Croatia’s national action plan with expert and administrative support provided by the Government Office for Cooperation with NGOs. The implementation responsibilities are spread among a large group of government institutions, including the parliament. In 2015, the Open Data Portal of Croatia was established which tried to offer in a single place all data related to public administration and became an integral part of the e-citizens project. Some key institutions that provide publicly accessible data such as the State Audit Office and the Croatian Bureau of Statistics do so in a comprehensive, timely and user-friendly way.
Czechia
The 2016 amendment to the Access to Information Act defined the term “open data” and led to the creation of a National Open Data Catalogue (Národní katalog otevřených dat, NKOD) and a central open data portal (https://opendata.gov.cz). Access to government information became a significant issue in the 2017 parliamentary elections and the 2018 municipal elections, largely thanks to the Pirate Party. Due to this effect, coming on top of long-standing pressure by NGOs, information provision has improved. While more information is thus made available to citizens than has been the case in the past, it is not always provided in a user-friendly fashion, and citizens seeking information are often forced to jump through numerous administrative loops.
Greece
Before the onset of the Greek economic crisis, there was a problem with reporting statistical and other data regarding government revenue and expenses as well as regarding personnel in the Greek public sector.

The situation has exceptionally improved since then. Barring data on defense and security, which are considered classified, all data produced by the revamped official statistical authority of Greece (Helstat) is accessible. This data is compiled and published according to Eurostat’s requirements. Reliable data is also available on public employment, including type of work contract and other information, via a separate website maintained by the Ministry of Administrative Reconstruction (Apografi). Moreover, thanks to a law on the issue of transparency, all administrative acts issued by the central, regional and local authorities and other public bodies (the Diavgeia system) are available online. Though this system is not very user-friendly, accessing the data is possible. The government that took power in July 2019 has announced that it would rapidly expand the digitalization of public services as part of an effort to enhance efficiency and transparency. To that effect, it established a new Ministry of Digital Governance, and also founded a new Government Authority on Transparency.
Citations:
The three platforms, cited in the above response, through which one can access data and information are the following:
http://www.statistics.gr/en/home/
http://apografi.gov.gr/ and
https://diavgeia.gov.gr/
Ireland
The government through governmental departments and institutions, such as the Central Statistics Office and the Auditor and Controller General, publishes data and information in a comprehensive, timely and user-friendly way.
Israel
In recent years, the government has expanded its efforts with regard to policy transparency. In 2011, Israel joined the Open Government Partnership and, in 2016, the government announced the launch of a program designed to open all governmental databases to public access. This step is part of an ongoing policy of increasing transparency by expanding the authority of and funding for the Governmental Unit for Freedom of Information.

Most (if not all) governmental authorities have an official website and social media presence, some of which are available in languages other than Hebrew (e.g., English and Arabic, as well as Persian in the case of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs). The websites offer a wide range of services, including information services (like press releases, law drafts for public commentary and policy explanations). One important example of this is the official website of the Ministry of Finance, which publishes the state budget (or more accurately its highlights) in a readable and keyword-searchable PDF format. The website also offers tools to observe changes in the budget and to compare it with the budgets from previous years.

The Knesset has a comprehensive website, offering the option to download all of the Knesset’s press releases, general assembly and various committee protocols (although excluding protocols from confidential committees, such as the Committee for Foreign Affairs and National Security Matters, and its many sub-committees), draft and enacted laws, and even research papers that were handed to the various committees. The Knesset’s TV channel, which started broadcasting in 2004, broadcasts through this website, and the Knesset’s committee and general assembly meetings are usually recorded and made available to watch online. Since 2009, the Public Knowledge Workshop, a non-profit NGO, has been running the Open Knesset website, with the aim to make the information on the Knesset’s website more accessible to the public. Currently, the Open Knesset website is not accessible, as an updated version being prepared. In addition, on 22 October 2018, the Knesset announced the launch of the National Legislation Database, with the purpose of making all legislation and legislative processes digitally accessible to the public.

Under the 20th Knesset, a special committee was charged with promoting initiatives to increase transparency and public access to government information. The committee was called the Special Committee for the Application of Governmental Information Accessibility and Its Transparency Principles to the Public, which has since been dubbed the Transparency Committee. Following the elections to the 21st Knesset, it was decided that the Transparency Committee would cease activity and would not convene during the current Knesset. According to media reports, the decision was made due to bitter relations between that committee’s chairman and other members of parliament.
Citations:
Bender, Eric. “The Transparency Committee Headed by MK Shaffir Shall Be Cancelled in the Next Knesset.” In Ma’ariv website.. April 18th, 2019. (Hebrew)

Government ICT Authority, “Open Government Action Plan for 2018-2019”: http://yoursay.gov.il/cio/File/Index/nap3english/

Liel, Dafna. “MK Shaffir’s Transparency Committee Will Be Cancelled?.” In Mako website.. April 18th, 2019. (Hebrew)

Transparency International, “Corruption Perceptions Index 2018”: http://www.ti-israel.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/CPI-2018-Executive-summary-PRINT.pdf

Tamar Hermann, “Democracy in Crisis? Israeli Survey Respondents Agree to Disagree”: 13.12.2018, Podcast, https://en.idi.org.il/podcasts/25310

“Transparency International – Israel”: http://www.ti-israel.org/ (Hebrew)

Anna Ahronheim, “IDF comptroller to investigate army’s readiness,” JPost, 26.09.2018: https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/IDF-comptroller-to-investigate-armys-readiness-567994
Lithuania
There are several main reporting mechanisms on the overall performance of the government and its institutions. First, every year the government presents to the parliament an annual performance report where overall performance and performance in the policy areas of individual ministries as well as thematic areas are reported. Second, the Lithuanian government publishes quarterly, semi-annual or annual reports on the implementation of annual performance priorities. Third, every year the institutions that manage appropriations from the state budget publish their annual performance reports on the implementation of strategic-performance plans (including budgetary programs) and the achievement of performance targets (i.e., outputs, outcomes and impacts). However, the National Audit Office found in its 2015 performance report that these government reports failed to include more than half of the outcome-level monitoring indicators whose targets were not achieved, and that information on unachieved outcomes was ambiguously reported. Also, reporting on the implementation of the 2015 priorities was incomplete, with less than half of all performance results presented by the government.

The scope of information presented in the annual performance reports of Lithuanian budgetary institutions is large, but they sometimes omit important information and lack a critical assessment of organizational performance. The Lithuanian government has committed to taking action to address the challenge of incomplete, selective and biased reporting.

A open-government data initiative is part of a national plan of information society development. The Ministry of Economy and Innovation launched the initiative during the 2008 to 2012 government term, when the potential of opening up government data was first recognized. Parts of the necessary infrastructure have been in place since implementation of the first EU directive on public sector information. For instance, the Information Society Development Committee created a preliminary open data portal (http://opendata.gov.lt) where information on available datasets is published. The Ministry of Transport and Communications intends to spend around €4 million on the development of an advanced open data portal. In order to exploit the opportunities presented by government data, government ministries and agencies are encouraged to open up data to the public. Despite a recent increase in the scope of government data published online, Lithuanian authorities should pursue a more experimental approach to discover how data can add value to the public sector, to society and to the economy.
Citations:
Valstybės kontrolė (2016). Programinio biudžeto sistema: strateginių veiklos planų sudarymas ir įgyvendinimo stebėsena, Nr. VA-P-60-2-17.
Spain
Ministries and public agencies (e.g., the National Statistics Institute, INE, and the Sociological Research Center, CIS) often publish data and information that enables citizens to hold the government accountable. The third Open Government Plan 2017 – 2019 (as modified in June 2018) promoted mechanisms of participation and dialogue with civil society and ensure inter-administrative cooperation. During the period under review, the government adopted the fourth Open Government Plan (2019 – 2021), which aims to improve the transparency, quality and availability of open data in order to increase the accountability of public administrations. The plan will also increase citizens’ and public servants’ awareness of the values of open government. Besides the activities of the central government, there are a number of innovative open government projects at the regional level.
Citations:
Government (2017), Open Government Plan 2017-2019 plan, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/Spain_Action-Plan_2017-2019_UPDATE_EN.pdf

Gobierno Abierto de Navarra, http://www.gobiernoabierto.navarra.es/es

Government (2019), IV Plan de Gobierno Abierto, https://transparencia.gob.es/transparencia/transparencia_Home/index/Gobierno-abierto/ivPlanAccion/Que_es_IV_Plan.html
Netherlands
The most important and high-prestige knowledge institutes (CPB, PBL, SCP and WRR) regularly publish comprehensive, timely and accurate data. Such information is used in the annual information packages that accompany parliamentary deliberation and decision-making on the national budget. Throughout the year, government provides topical information about issues pertaining to ministerial policy agendas on the government website. For politically engaged citizens, it is thus quite possible to be well-informed on government policies. In the Edelman Trust Index 2019, the Netherlands scored a relatively high and unchanged 54 with regard to trust in government information, indicating an average “neutral” position falling between trust and distrust. Political parties sometimes openly express distrust in the numbers released by the high-prestige knowledge institutes if these contradict their policy preferences.

In other cases (e.g., the WODC research into drugs policy, the outbreak of Q-fever in rural areas, the continued use of carcinogenic agents in military paint and sensitivity to earthquakes in areas of gas exploitation), the government interfered in the findings of government-sponsored research. Open government regulation offers public access to most routine government information. Though the law also offers decision-makers plenty of opportunities to withhold or delay information if “necessary” for political convenience. There are several blatant cases of government misinformation and/or information delays, frequently because civil servants are alleged to have belatedly or incompletely informed ministers in order to shield ministers from media scrutiny or to spin the information.

Investigative journalism articles published in De Correspondent and Follow the Money have disclosed hidden governance issues and government facilitation of structural business lobbying arrangements.
Citations:
NRC-Handelblad, De eenzame strijd van een klokkenluider bij Justitie, 18 June, 2018

Volkskrant, Q-koortsslachtoffers voelen zich niet serieus genomen door de overheid: ‘Het is een grof schandaal,’ 26 September 2018

NRC-Handelsblad, Defensie gebruik nog steeds kankerverwekkende verf, 22 October 2018

2019 Edelman Trust Barometer (edelman.com, accessed 8 November 2019)

De Volkskrant, 2 October 2019. RIVM reageert op kritiek: stikstofmetingen deugen wel.

Follow the Money, 27 July 2019. ABDUP: al bijna 75 jaar de onzichtbare lobby van Nederlandse multinationals. (ftm.nl, accessed 8 November 2019)
USA
In addition to data on the activities of government, the U.S. government publishes a vast amount of social, economic and other data. All major departments and agencies collect and publish important series of relevant data. The Budget of the United States Government describes all major programs, their funding and levels of activity, and each agency publishes a substantial annual report describing its operations and various measures of performance and outcomes.

Federal agencies often provide data in a form intended to be used by ordinary citizens. For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides information for patients separately from that intended for health professionals. For the most part, however, federal agencies do not, and need not, take responsibility for putting data into a form that is best understood by ordinary citizens. Each body of federal data is repackaged and re-purposed by numerous media, service and other organizations.

The Trump administration has discontinued the publication of various data series on matters that challenge administration priorities, ranging from climate change to mental health. Its actions have been described as a “war on data.” Increasingly, the administration cites national security as an argument for withholding information from the public or Congress.
6
Austria
The ÖVP-FPÖ government (2017 – 2019), as its predecessor had, paid lip service to the idea of open government. However, like its predecessor, its promises were not followed by significant new policy actions. The Austrian government is not a “closed shop” – access to government data (e.g., provided by the government’s websites) is possible and the opposition’s right to information concerning significant developments is not disputed. But this is not the high level of open government that may be expected considering the promises given by this and former governments. The proposed freedom of information act remains stuck in parliament and it appears likely that it will stay there for many more years to come.
The government has made an effort to facilitate the provision of scientific micro-data, but it is still much more difficult for researchers to access essential data compared to, for example, researchers in Nordic countries. Any government (rightfully) has to consider the possible contradiction between open government and the principle of protecting sensible (especially personal) data.
Belgium
In 2011, Belgium launched an open data platform with the aim of making government information readily available to citizens. In general, Belgium is comparable to the average European country in terms of open data policy. However, perhaps due to a lack of communication, Belgium continues to lag behind its European counterparts in terms of the use and impact of open data initiatives.
Belgium is ranked 22 out of 115 countries in the Open Data Barometer Global Report Fourth Edition (2016) and 22 out of 94 countries in the Global Open Data Index 2016/2017. The Global Open Data Index highlights Belgium’s poor performance regarding the availability of information on government spending, land ownership, election results, draft legislation and national laws.
As a response to the lack of information, Transparencia, a private platform, was created in 2016 with the aim of helping citizens access information held by the government.
Citations:
http://digitaldashboard.belgium.be/sites/default/files/basic-page/files/2018-03/country-factsheet_belgium.pdf
https://index.okfn.org/place/be/
https://opendatabarometer.org/data-explorer/?_year=2015&indicator=ODB&lang=en&open=BEL
https://data.gov.be/fr/info-faq

Private substitute:
https://transparencia.be/help/about
https://www.sudinfo.be/art/1699151/article/2016-10-19/transparencia-une-plate-forme-bruxelloise-pour-obliger-les-autorites-a-plus-de-t
Bulgaria
The Bulgarian government has adopted a policy of developing citizen access to government data through the establishment of an open data portal. As of late 2019, there were close to 10,000 datasets available, and constant updates take place. All datasets are downloadable in machine-ready format. The data portal provides citizens with a powerful tool for assessing government policies and holding the government accountable. Two major limitations remain, however. First, the supply of data, which would enable citizens to make a preliminary assessment of major government projects and plans, is relatively limited. Second, many datasets are difficult to interpret because of obscure and unclear methodologies.
Citations:
https://opendata.government.bg/
France
The bureaucratic and political structure of the country overall provides satisfactory information. It is possible to get full access to information directly or through specialized citizens groups, and several media outlets provide critical analyses of governmental action.
However, the political system, both at the local or national level, offers few instruments to help citizens monitor and oversee their administrative and political authorities. The main issue remains the incapacity of individuals to deal with the massive flows of information provided by public bodies. At the local level, the “information” provided by the ruling party or coalition tends to be mere window-dressing or propaganda in support of the adopted or proposed policy.
Mexico
Mexico’s access to information law from 2003 guarantees the public’s right to request and receive information from the federal government. With the law, Mexico created the innovative Federal Institute for Access to Information (Instituto Federal de Acceso a la Información Pública – IFAI), which helps citizens to collect data and information. The new government of President López Obrador is pursuing a more transparent policy toward citizens. The president’s daily press conferences symbolize this new openness. On the other hand, government communication policies at the national and subnational levels regarding the war on drugs cannot be considered very transparent.
 
The government publishes data in a limited and not timely or user-friendly way.
5
Cyprus
The Statistical Service and the Press and Information Office (PIO) systematically publish statistical data and reports, and information on the activities of the president and ministers. Ministries publish information on their work, albeit with significantly differing scope and type of information. The publication of annual activity reports by ministries and departments is often delayed by several years.

In early September 2019, the government website Exandas was launched. It provides access to government tables and gives an overview of all development projects and reforms, political decisions, and national strategies which are being implemented. Data and information available mostly consist of an inventory of all actions undertaken since the current government took office in 2013. Unfortunately, data offered on Exandas bears no dates and no update has been undertaken since the website’s launch. Given the lack of comprehensive data on key policies and government activities, citizens remain unable to independently evaluate the government’s work.
Citations:
1. Exandas – Report for monitoring the progress of government work (in Greek), https://exandas.presidency.gov.cy/
Latvia
Latvia joined the Open Government Partnership in 2011, with the State Chancellery as the current assigned contact point. The government has made efforts to ensure Latvia complies with the partnership requirements. Three National Action Plans have been published since joining the partnership, monitoring the progress and proposing future improvements in the field of open government.

Following these recommendations, an online platform was set up in 2017 (https://data.gov.lv) to serve as a single point of public access to government data. At the time of writing, the portal contained 318 datasets from 68 data publishers (compared to 33 datasets from 13 data publishers in 2017). However, it is not mandatory for government data to be published on the platform. Instead, data is only published on a voluntary basis. The Latvian Open Data Portal is linked with the European Data Portal, which means that all data published is also available on the European Data Portal. Furthermore, the Ministry of Finance now publishes basic information about the government’s budget positions on an interactive platform, which details the spending categories to which funds are allocated and the amount that is spent (in absolute and percentage terms).

In 2017, Latvia ranked 14 (up from 31 in 2015) in the Global Open Data Index. Open public sector data in Latvia is evaluated as meeting the basic criteria of the Open Data Index, but fails when it comes to more advanced criteria, especially when it comes to usability of the data (e.g., publishing documents in a machine-readable format, offering bulk-download options and using open license statements). Importantly, although the law (updated in 2018) regulates what information should be published online by governmental institutions, no unified approach is used when it comes to structuring the information, which often makes locating information difficult.
Citations:
1. State Chancellery (2017), National Action Plan 2017-2019, Available at: https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/Latvia_National-Action-Plan_2017-2019_LAT.pdf

2. Latvian Open Data Portal, Available at: https://data.gov.lv/lv

3. Ministry of Finance, Interactive Budget (2018), Available at: http://www.fm.gov.lv/valstsbudzets, Last assessed: 05.11.2019

4. Open Government Partnership (2015-2018), Timeline: Latvia, Available at: https://www.mk.gov.lv/sites/default/files/editor/ogp_lat_timeline.pdf, Last assessed: 05.11.2019

5. Global Open Data Index (2017), Available at: https://index.okfn.org/place/, Last assessed: 05.11.2019
Malta
Malta provides a mixed picture with regard to open-government issues. Since the country obtained EU membership, governments have found themselves increasingly pressured to provide information through more open and transparent channels. Malta has a Whistleblower Act. The National Statistics Office (NSO), reformed in the late 1990s in response to Malta’s EU membership bid, and reformed again in 2015, regularly makes freely accessible information available on various matters. The NSO also responds to researchers and the media seeking access to information relating to a great diversity of subjects. However, the NSO statistics tend to be used by government entities more than by the media or the public. Every ministry, department, public corporation and public sector board must publish annual reports and information on their websites. Hence, a vast quantity of information can be accessed online through government websites or EU portals. Furthermore, as noted elsewhere, information can be obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. However, this remains contested territory. In 2018, there were 367 requests for information, 198 of which received a response and 31 of which were still being processed as of the time of writing. Governments tend to be reluctant to publish public contracts, citing commercial sensitivity. This can be valid in some cases, but is not in others. A recent information request by the parliament was refused, with a response indicating there were insufficient human resources available to collect the data. The data commissioner, who had to adjudicate a case relating to documents pertaining to the Vitals hospital deal, was not allowed to view the documents in question. The new commissioner for standards in public life recently criticized government ministries for inviting only selected journalists to certain public events. However, the evident capacity of hackers to infiltrate government systems should demonstrate that secrecy is no longer an option. In 2017, the Ombudsman reported that the public administration and public authorities generally have a negative attitude toward disclosing information; this remains a challenge today, undermining the overall openness and transparency of the public administration.
Citations:
Ministers should not only invite selected journalists to public events standards commissioner says. Times of Malta 06/02/19
‘Humanly impossible’ to establish number of vacant state properties Times of Malta 05/02/19
2017 Parliamentary Ombudsman Report
Times of Malta 16/10/19 Court rejects Times request for hospital deal documents
Ministry of Justice Annual Report 2018
Poland
Poland is not a member of the Open Government Partnership and the government is not much interested in fostering a social dialogue about its policy initiatives. Though the government does engage in digital access. In addition, the Ministry of Digital Affairs runs a government data portal and other mechanisms for public access, and is also engaged in opening access to administration via digital means. However, all these actions follow a technological perspective and are not necessarily driven by a motivation to truly enable citizens to participate in politics.
Citations:
Wieczorkowski, J., I. Pawełoszek (2018): Open government data, the case of Polish public sector, in: Online Journal of Applied Knowledge Management 6(2): 54-71 (http://www.iiakm.org/ojakm/articles/2018/volume6_2/OJAKM_Volume6_2pp54-71.pdf).
Portugal
Data and information is published by the government. However, it is not comprehensive nor necessarily regularly updated. It is also not easy to locate information, which is dispersed across agencies, ministries, QUANGOs, public administration bodies, and other state and quasi-state organizations.

In addition to the nature of the information, the government provides access to IT so that the citizens, in theory at least, can access data. Whether the available information is very useful is, however, questionable.

The government of Portugal has tried to improve access by launching the e-Portugal portal (eportugal.gov.pt) that provides public access to government information within the framework of the Strategy for Digital Transformation of Public Administration and which might strengthen the public’s ability to hold government accountable.
Citations:
https://www.dn.pt/…/governo-lanca-portal-eportugal-para-simplificar-o-acesso-dos-po..
Slovakia
Slovakia joined the Open Government Partnership in 2011 and opened an Open Data Portal in 2015 (www.data.gov.sk). In its 2016 government manifesto, the third Fico government pledged to increase public administration transparency and make public information available in the form of open data. It also emphasized its ambition to support a data-based economy and stimulate the business environment. The current quality of published datasets at the open data portal suffers from persistent problems with insufficient updates to some datasets and the non- standardization of formats.
Citations:
Schneider, J. (2015): Bringing Government Data into the Light: Slovakia’s Open Data Initative, 2011-2015. Princeton, N.J. (https://successfulsocieties.princeton.edu/sites/successfulsocieties/files/JS_OGP_Slovakia_FORMATTED_012Oct2015.pdf).

Office of the Plenipotentiary of the Government of the Slovak Republic for the Development of Civil Society (2017): Open Government Partnership National Action Plan of the Slovak Republic 2017 – 2019. Adopted by the Government Resolution No. 104/2017. Bratislava (https://www.minv.sk/swift_data/source/rozvoj_obcianskej_spolocnosti/otvorene_vladnutie/akcne_plany/2017_2019/Slovakia-OGP-nap-2017-english.pdf).
4
Iceland
The government does not systematically or regularly publish data or information that could strengthen the ability of citizens to evaluate or monitor the government. On the contrary, the government is widely seen as seeking to hide information that is readily available to citizens in neighboring countries. For example, the Pension Fund for State Employees has refused to publish the names of those pensioners who receive the largest payments from the fund and the amounts they receive.

Furthermore, the Wage Council, which was tasked with deciding the salaries of members of parliament and senior public officials, granted substantial wage hikes in recent years. The wage increases were so substantial that both the Icelandic Confederation of Labor (ASÍ) and the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA) publicly complained that the increases threatened to undermine the labor market by triggering corresponding wage claims across the board. The government responded by disbanding the Wage Council. The Wage Council appears to have kept no minutes of its meetings.

The governing board of the central bank, appointed by parliament, does not publish the minutes of its meetings. This makes it impossible to ascertain whether the board has fulfilled its legal obligations to ensure that the central bank follows the law and investigate allegations of legal violations by central bank officials. In October 2008, the central bank lent the private bank Kaupthing €500 million, just as Kaupthing was about to fail. The loan was not made in accordance with the bank’s rules and may have violated the law. It is a matter of record that one-third of the loan amount was deposited immediately in an offshore tax haven. Even so, as no minutes of meetings were kept, there is no way to determine whether the governing board of the bank fulfilled its legal obligations, let alone took appropriate measures.

These examples notwithstanding, the government has for some time run an open consultation web portal (Samráðsgátt, samradsgatt.island.is/um-samradsgatt/) to increase transparency, and opportunities for public and stakeholder participation in policymaking. One can find and access drafts of bills, rules and policy documents via the portal. Everyone can send in comments and suggestions. The extent to which such contributions can affect the actions or intentions of the government is, however, unclear.
Citations:
Samráðsgátt stjórnvalda. https://samradsgatt.island.is/oll-mal/?FilterDate=LatestChanged
Italy
According to the Freedom of Information principle established in 1990, and further extended in 2013 (Law decree no. 33), citizens have access to all administrative acts with limited exceptions. A government commission oversees the full application of this right.

The government does not have a systematic and comprehensive policy of making information easily accessible for citizens in such a way as would enable citizens to hold the government accountable. The Presidency of the Council of Ministers and the ministries themselves maintain web pages that publish information about government activities. However, the information published on these websites provides a sequence of events (e.g., meetings of the ministers) rather than data-rich documentation.
Romania
Romania joined the international Open Government Partnership in 2011, emphasizing the overarching goals of increasing transparency, promoting new technologies and engaging citizens. Within the framework of the partnership, four action plans have been approved since 2011. In 2013, the government established an open data portal (data.gov.ro) which now provides over 1,000 datasets from almost 100 public bodies. From 2015 to 2017, the Ministry of Public Consultation and Civic Dialogue oversaw the implementation of the action plans. Since its disbandment in January 2018, the implementation oversight has rested with the Secretariat General of the Government. A quick look at the website of various ministries and agencies shows that the information provided is patchy, outdated or partial. Some of the websites are hard to access or are difficult to navigate.
Citations:
Romanian Government (2018): Open Government Partnership: National Action Plan 2018-2020. Bucharest (http://ogp.gov.ro/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Romania-2018-2020_NAP_EN.pdf).
Turkey
Turkey is moderately prepared for public administration reform and demonstrates a strong commitment to a more open administration and the use of e-government. However, there has been serious backsliding in the areas of public service provision, human resource management, and accountability (e.g., with regard to the right to administrative justice and the right to seek compensation). A transparent and effective response still needs to be provided for the large-scale dismissals of public sector employees.

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) Steering Committee designated the government of Turkey as inactive in OGP on 21 September 2016. Due to Turkey’s failure to meet the requirements, Turkey’s participation in the OGP ended in September 2017. As part of its fight against corruption, Turkey prepared an Action Plan 2012 – 2013 that included launching four web portals (i.e., for transparency, expenditure, electronic procurement and regulations), identifying areas at risk of corruption, developing relevant measures, minimizing bureaucratic obstacles, and promoting integrity, transparency and accountability.

A 2019 European Commission report stressed that while Turkey has made progress in the standardization of data collection and achieving EU acquis alignment in many sectors (e.g., business, labor, education), it must improve coordination between TurkStat (TÜİK) and other data providers and improve the quality and use of administrative records. Turkey’s capacity for data collection and analysis is being strengthened through projects funded under IPA. However, TurkStat’s professional independence is questionable in the wake of a presidential decree adopted in July 2018 that cut the mandate of TurkStat’s president and changed the appointment procedures of senior officials.
Citations:
European Commission, Turkey 2019 Report, Brussels, 29.5.2019, https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/20190529-turkey- report.pdf (accessed 1 November 2019)

Open Government Partnership, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/turkey-withdrawn (accessed 27 October 2018)

World Justice Project, Rule of Law Index 2019, https://worldjusticeproject.org/sites/default/files/documents/ROLI-2019-Reduced.pdf (accessed 1 November 2019)

2017 Açık Hükümet Verilerinin Nihai Durum Raporu, http://www.verigazeteciligi.com/2017-acik-hukumet-verilerinin-nihai-durum-raporu-turkce/ (accessed 1 November 2019)
3
Hungary
The Hungarian government is certainly not an open government, since access to relevant information is very difficult even for members of parliament and much more for ordinary citizens. Hungary quit the Open Government Partnership in late 2016 because the Hungarian government had been heavily criticized for its lack of transparency and its treatment of NGOs in this forum. In December 2016, the Orbán government approved a White Paper on National Data policy that called for strengthening efforts to make public sector information available as open data. As it stands, the datasets available at the central open data portal www.kozadat.hu are limited and difficult to use. The lack of transparency was a major issue in the municipal elections in October 2019.
 
The government publishes (almost) no relevant data.
2
---
---
1
---
---
Back to Top