The city of Konstanz is hosting its first Open Government day and together with Christian Geiger from the Verschwoerhaus Ulm – a city innovation lab – I will be talking about how cities can tackle the challenge of implementing open government using digital technologies.
Open Government has been revived in the last 10 years and has made it up onto the political agenda as a tool to include citizens more in what their government does, help with decision making, and also increase transparency of government operations. While Open Government is not a new concept, new technologies now make it easier to move data onto open data platforms in machine-readable format and engage citizens in reusing the data to build apps and mashups. Instead of waiting for freedom of information requests, governments are voluntarily releasing data.
The gist of my short talk will be that a city that commits to open government has to fully accept the challenge to go beyond releasing datasets in machine-readable form, that are at the end of the day only usable for professionals with data science skills, but not reusable by regular citizens. While this is a good first step, governments need to think about new forms of online participation and collaboration, such as open innovation platforms. And as a next steps, after they ask citizens to engage online with the city, it is important to then also include feedback loops and be transparent about how the information and ideas citizens have contributed was ultimately used in internal decision making processes.
Digital transformation is an important step to gain citizens’ attentions in times of cord cutters, diminishing interest in policy making, disenchantment of citizens. The use of new technologies to reach citizens is an important driver for open government. However, in thinking about redesigning administrative acts with an eye toward open government, it is important to think through how offline services can be delivered online. It’s important to conduct this step in a transformative way to allow civil servants to rethink the administrative act and redesign processes based on citizens’ needs, instead of the internal logic of government.