Open government policies represent one of the most important drivers to modernize public administrations and improve the quality of services delivered to citizens and businesses. Implementing the principles of open government allows for a more effective response to the growing need for transparency of administrative performance and for citizen and civil society participation; it allows to more effectively combat corruption and to increase trust in institutions.
Generally, the key hallmarks of an open government are:
- transparency and quality of information: public administrations must be accountable for the actions and decisions taken, ensuring full responsibility for the results achieved (accountability). It is necessary that the public data produced by daily activities of the administrations are released in an open format (“open data”);
- civic participation: citizens have the right to be involved in the development, implementation and evaluation of public policies. Participatory budgets, city assemblies, consultations, social audits and other forms of deliberative democracy are fundamental tools to exercise rights by all, especially by the minorities. Indeed, it often becomes challenging for national or local governments to create mechanisms that allow the disadvantaged, women, youth and other excluded groups to participate in the governance of their community – that is why it is essential to protect civic space;
- inclusive digital innovation is an enabling condition for the implementation of public policies in support of public participation, transparency and accountability. It is essential to guarantee access to technologies, promoting a widespread acquisition of skills required for digital citizenship. At the same time, it is necessary to ensure privacy and protect from the risks of improper use of artificial intelligence.
Since 2011 Italy has enhanced its contribution to open government through various initiatives, including the commitments arising from its membership in the Open Government Partnership (OGP), the organization and participation in national and international events and initiatives - such as the Open Gov Week which aims to disseminate the principles of open government or the OpenGov Champion Award for the most virtuous practices - and the dissemination of open government topics among administrations through innovative methodology pilot projects in relationship with public policy stakeholders.
Regarding the promotion of participation in public decision-making processes, the Department for Public Administration and the Department for Institutional Reforms have created operational guidelines on public consultations and the ParteciPA platform to promote quality public consultations among Italian PAs, providing a space for discussion for all actors wishing to work together on the implementation of public policies.
Who works on open government?
Italy's key stakeholders on open government are the Open Government Partnership and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Open Government Partnership
Open Government Partnership is an international initiative supporting collaboration between governments and civil society organizations with specific objectives and on concrete projects to render governments more open.
Transparency, participation, integrity and digitization are the principles of the Open Government Declaration 2011 whereby the member countries commit themselves to the initiatives in the context of open government. The key commitments include:
- development of a two-year National Action Plan (NAP), closely involving civil society and PAs, that includes commitments and projects on OGP topics, using innovation and digital transformation;
- elaboration of self-assessments on the progress made under the National Action Plan, evaluated by the Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM);
- dissemination of open government in other countries through the exchange of best practices, technical assistance, technologies and resources;
- support to the OGP Local programme. Currently, the only Italian administration that has joined the initiative is the City of Palermo.
Since 20 September 2011 - the official launch of the initiative - the number of member countries has been growing steadily, including 78 current members. Italy has been a partner since 2011, and in October 2017, after being elected by other countries, it was admitted to the OGP Steering Committee for a three-year term, afterwards, it was elected as a Steering Committee Co-Chair for 2022 together with Aidan Eyakuze from Twaweza East Africa.
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
The OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) has also developed policies and tools in the field of open government and provides an even broader perspective than that of OGP, indicating the principles of open government as strategic and crucial factors for any public reform processes.
The four key principles of the 2017 OECD Recommendation of the Council on Open Government, joined by Italy, are:
- transparency understood as access to data and information;
- integrity, namely, respect for ethical values and principles;
- accountability, meaning the responsibility and the obligation to inform citizens about the decision-making process;
- stakeholder participation, namely, engagement into the entire political cycle.
The Recommendation also indicates the pillars of open government, 10 provisions grouped into three categories: enabling factors (key elements for the development of OG strategies), implementation (elements in support of the strategies implementation), open state (involvement of all levels of government into the adoption of OG policies).
The OECD, in collaboration with the Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (OPSI), has also created a Toolkit Navigator to support governments in the implementation of the Recommendation and in the reform processes. Each section includes case studies allowing to draw upon a list of experts for targeted advice. It also contains links to the toolkits developed by governments and / or bodies which give useful insights for the development of transparency strategies, communication, monitoring activities, etc.
In addition, the OECD has recently created the Open Government Dashboard, an innovative visualization tool, constantly updated and expanded, comprising numerous indicators on different open government topics. The present beta-version includes the data from 44 countries (including 34 OECD members) that are divided into five sections: introduction to the concept of open government; the OGP process and its governance; citizen and stakeholder participation; transparency and access to information; protecting and promoting civic space. Together, these indicators provide a detailed snapshot of the measures adopted by governments to promote open government.
Finally, the OECD has created a Community of open government experts for discussions and interaction to share experiences, best practices, ideas and advice.
What is open government for? Guide for the skeptics
The Skeptic’s Guide to Open Government is the guide published by OGP in two parts, the first edition on 10 July 2018 and the second one, a follow-up, on 16 May 2022. Both guides provide evidence of the impact of the open government methodology in ten areas of action: delivery of public services; business opportunities; efficiency and cost savings for administrations; corruption prevention; trust in governments; access to justice; fiscal openness; open contracting; social audits; grievance redress mechanisms.
Each chapter provides an in-depth study on the topic, supporting data and case studies. Experts from around the world have worked together on thorough reviews inside and outside the Open Government Partnership (OGP) member countries.