Why is Open Government important?  


Battle of the saints crop

This post is the first in a two-part series about what motivates people to get involved in Open Government. One thing I know from my days in the advertising business is that people are mostly motivated by what they feel is important.  As Simon Sinek describes so well in his video,  “why?” is the most important question. Watch the Golden Circle of Why.

Of course before you can ask the question, you need to have some working definition of what we mean by Open Government, in this case I am using two reference points for my understanding:

My research consists of asking the question “Why is Open Government important to you”, to dozens of folks on social media and in real life, I watched videos, and consumed the Open Government Partnership Web Site.  I have done a little heuristic analysis  that has led to this incomplete and entirely subjective result.

When I ask the question, I get answers that (in my mind at least), fall into four groups: Building a better society, Fairness, Hope, and Self direction. One could argue that Building a better society is really part of hope, but one could argue anything, so I am not going there.

Building a Better Society

  • Services can sometimes be better and more efficient if co-delivered
  • Transparency, open communication, and visibility to fair process is the foundation for civic engagement
  • Open Government allows for greater participation, dialogue, innovation and smarter more connected communities
  • Citizen engagement leads to reduced risk and better decisions
  • If Government is more open maybe it will be also more effective, and efficient

Fairness

  • Government should be accountable to those who elected it
  • Strengthening democracy, fighting corruption, empowering citizens,
  • Dollars well spent, good information should be shared with those who want it
  • We paid for that data, so give it up

Hope

  • We need to work together to solve the wicked problems facing society
  • Open Government is a global platform for citizens and governments to work together for a better future
  • Maybe Open Government can restore trust between Government and Citizens
  • Maybe it a sign that the culture of secrecy and entitlement is changing

Self Direction

  • Allow me to see the raw data without political spin or rhetoric and make informed decisions based on my own conclusions
  • Helps me trust the source, keep myself informed, feel engaged.
  • Data is the new currency, lets profit from it.

These are all great reasons and they resonate with the logical part of my brain, I know they are important, some of them deeply so, and yet they fail to motivate me to take action. Open Government impacts our economy, political system, social stability, quality of life, beliefs, and ultimately the heart of democracy. It’s big. Maybe too big. So asked myself again, why, and came up with an answer was far more personal. I will tell you that story in my next post.

Image Credit: Battle of the Saints, Thomas Whitcombe [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 This post originally appeared as part of the GTEC blog 2014

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About Thom Kearney

Change agent, teacher, arts, science, open government, father, mentor, storyteller, husband, dog owner,collaborator, not necessarily in that order.
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