Chapter 2. Creating a sound policy framework for open government in Argentina

This chapter takes stock of Argentina’s policy framework for open government and provides recommendations for its consolidation. It includes a discussion of the usefulness of a single definition of open government and provides an overview of existing policy documents that refer to open government principles, including the State Modernisation Plan, the Federal Commitment for the Modernisation of the State and the OGP Action Plan. It finds that the then Ministry of Modernisation acted as the driver of an open government agenda that can be characterised as a “big bang approach”. Within a short period of time, it developed a broad range of open government initiatives with the involvement of a number of new institutions. The chapter concludes with guidelines and practical recommendations for the development of an open government policy framework for the future – a National Open Government Strategy.

    

Introduction

Policy initiatives promoting open government principles have started to flourish in Argentina.

Policy initiatives guide the implementation of policies because they set objectives and are necessary for the successful monitoring and evaluation of countries’ policy agendas. Initiatives to promote the open government principles of transparency, accountability, integrity and stakeholder participation have existed for a long time. Some countries have a tradition of engaging stakeholders in policy design, while others have gained ample experience in providing access to public information. However, only in recent years – and particularly since the creation of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in 2011 – has the term “open government” been used (and understood) more widely. Today, countries are implementing a great variety of innovative strategies and initiatives under the umbrella of open government (Figure 2.1).

Figure ‎2.1. Initiatives on open government implemented in OECD countries and around the world
Figure ‎2.1. Initiatives on open government implemented in OECD countries and around the world

Source: OECD (2016), Open Government: The Global Context and the Way Forward, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264268104-en.

In recent years, countries across the globe have elaborated definitions of open government and designed OGP Action Plans, while some have integrated open government into National Development and/or Modernisation Plans and sectoral strategies. However, only a small number of national and subnational governments have developed a comprehensive whole-of-government Open Government Strategy that goes beyond siloed approaches and embeds open government principles into a country’s broader policy framework. Box 2.1 explains the differences between open government principles, strategies and initiatives.

Box ‎2.1. Distinguishing between open government principles, strategies and initiatives

The principles of open government are transparency, integrity, accountability and stakeholder participation.

An open government strategy or open government policy* is “a document that defines the open government agenda of the central government and/or of any of its sub-national levels, as well as that of a single public institution or thematic area, and that includes key open government initiatives, together with short, medium and long-term goals and indicators.

Open government initiatives areactions undertaken by the government, or by a single public institution, to achieve specific objectives in the area of open government, ranging from the drafting of laws to the implementation of specific activities such as online consultations.

Note: *Some countries may refer to “policy” rather than “strategy”. For the purpose of consistency, the present report uses the term “strategy”.

Source: OECD (2017), Recommendation of the Council on Open Government, OECD, Paris, https://legalinstruments.oecd.org/en/instruments/OECD-LEGAL-0438 (accessed 30 November 2018).

This chapter assesses Argentina against provision 1 of the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Open Government (Box 2.2). The chapter includes a discussion of the usefulness of a single definition of open government and provides an overview of existing policy documents that refer to open government principles, including the State Modernisation Plan, the Federal Commitment for the Modernisation of the State and the OGP Action Plan. It concludes with practical recommendations to develop a whole-of-government National Open Government Strategy in Argentina.

Box ‎2.2. Provision 1 of the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Open Government

“Take measures, in all branches and at all levels of the government, to develop and implement open government strategies and initiatives in collaboration with stakeholders and to foster commitment from politicians, members of parliament, senior public managers and public officials, to ensure successful implementation and prevent or overcome obstacles related to resistance to change.”

Source: OECD (2017), Recommendation of the Council on Open Government, OECD, Paris, https://legalinstruments.oecd.org/en/instruments/OECD-LEGAL-0438 (accessed 30 November 2018).

Fostering the use of a single definition of open government

A solid definition of open government is crucial to the elaboration and implementation of successful reforms.

According to OECD research (OECD, 2016), the concept of open government encompasses several approaches, definitions and principles, and takes into account various legal, historical or cultural aspects of countries worldwide. In the 1950s, open government referred to the disclosure of politically sensitive government information and was used in debates leading up to the approval of the Freedom of Information Act in the United States (Yu and Robinson, 2012). Over the years, the meaning was conceptually extended to include new opportunities in innovation, efficiency and flexibility in government offered by the use of “open data” and ICTs that emerged with the rise of the Internet.

Delineating an official concept of open government and defining what it entails is a pivotal first step to developing a holistic and coherent approach to open government reforms. Any country’s official definition should be co-created with a wide range of stakeholders to ensure that it is recognised and supported by the whole of government as well as citizens, civil society, academia and the private sector (OECD, 2016). Box 2.3 provides an overview of the benefits of a good definition of open government.

Box ‎2.3. Benefits of a good definition of open government

The OECD Report on Open Government: The Global Context and the Way Forward (OECD, 2016) explains why a good definition of open government is crucial:

  • It informs the public about the essential elements of open government, and the extent and limitations of the term.

  • It facilitates common understanding and usage of the term, and aligns all stakeholders and policy makers towards the same goals.

  • It facilitates robust analysis of the impacts of open government strategies and initiatives across different institutions and levels of government.

  • It supports international comparisons of open government strategies and initiatives.

Source: OECD (2016), Open Government: The Global Context and the Way Forward, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264268104-en.

According to the results of the OECD Survey on Open Government and Citizen Participation in the Policy Cycle (2015), 49% of countries across the OECD enjoy these benefits and have developed a single definition of open government (Figure 2.2). Of that proportion, 29% of countries have created their own definition, while 20% have adopted an external definition (OECD, 2016).

Figure ‎2.2. Countries with and without official definitions of open government
Figure ‎2.2. Countries with and without official definitions of open government

Source: Country responses to OECD (2015), OECD Survey on Open Government Co-ordination and Citizen Participation in the Policy Cycle, OECD, Paris.

Building on the Guiding Principles for Open and Inclusive Policy-Making (OECD, 2001) and the extensive data and evidence collection undertaken for the OECD Report on Open Government (2016), the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Open Government (OECD, 2017) defines open government as “a culture of governance that promotes the principles of transparency, integrity, accountability and stakeholder participation in support of democracy and inclusive growth”. Box 2.4 provides an overview of existing official definitions of open government in OECD countries.

Box ‎2.4. Official country examples of open government definitions

Canada

A governing culture that holds that the public has the right to access the documents and proceedings of government to allow for greater openness, accountability and engagement.

Chile

A public policy applicable to the whole of the public apparatus, aimed at strengthening and improving the institutional frame and management of public affairs by promoting and consolidating the transparency and access to public information principles, as well as the mechanisms for citizen participation in the design, formulation, implementation and evaluation of public policies. All this is in the context of the current public institutions’ modernisation process, the goal of which is to move towards a state at the service of all citizens and to improve the population’s quality of life.

France

Open government is understood as transparency of public action and openness to new forms of participation and collaboration with citizens and civil society. In France, the historical roots of the definition of open government are found in the 1789 French Declaration of Human Rights. Article 15 states that society has the right to make any public agent of its administration accountable. Open government contributes to promoting:

  • the construction of transparency and democratic trust through open data, open decision-making processes and accountability

  • citizen empowerment based on the possibility of informed decision-making and active citizenship through digital tools and shared resources for increased autonomy

  • the adaptation of government practices to the digital revolution through co-creation, agility and simplification, innovation, data-driven strategies, the transformation of the administration into a platform, etc.

Korea

Government 3.0 (Open Government Initiative) represents a new paradigm for government operations to deliver customised public services and generate new jobs in a creative manner by opening and sharing government-owned data with the public and encouraging communication and collaboration between government departments. Government 3.0 aims to make the government more service-oriented, competent and transparent, thereby working to pursue the happiness of citizens.

Luxembourg

Government of an accountable and democratic constitutional state, based on the rule of law and justice, that works to achieve, as far as possible, a maximum level of transparency and citizen participation, which is not in contradiction with human rights or other fundamental values.

Note: Some of the definitions presented here were translated from the original languages.

Source: Country responses to OECD (2015), OECD Survey on Open Government Co-ordination and Citizen Participation in the Policy Cycle, OECD, Paris.

A significant number of public institutions in Argentina have a definition of open government in place.

The then Ministry of Modernisation (then MoM) defined open government as “a process of state transformation that promotes transparency, citizen participation and collaboration as principles for the design of innovative public management”. This definition was elaborated by the Undersecretariat of Public Innovation and Open Government of the then MoM without the involvement of external stakeholders.

According to the results of the OECD Survey, a significant number of ministries (79%) have a definition of open government in place (Figure 2.3). In many cases, ministries stated that they had employed the definition provided by the then MoM. Most ministries sourced their definition from the Open Government Kit or the OGP Action Plans. Only five participating ministries indicated that they did not have a definition of open government.

Figure ‎2.3. A significant number of Argentinian institutions have defined open government, but the origins of these definitions vary widely
Figure ‎2.3. A significant number of Argentinian institutions have defined open government, but the origins of these definitions vary widely

Note: The term IPI refers to independent public institutions.

Conversely, none of the participating provinces had the same definition as the then MoM, and 80% stated that they had elaborated their own definition. Most provinces either adopted definitions from external sources (e.g. the Ibero-American Charter of Open Government produced by the Centro Latinoamericano de Administración para el Desarrollo (CLAD)) or developed their own. Institutions from the other branches of power and independent public institutions mainly took their definitions from external sources (57%). Only the Senate and the Auditor General’s Office have applied the then Ministry of Modernisation’s definition of open government.

The fact that such a large number of ministries, provinces and institutions from other branches have a definition of open government in place is a positive development, reflecting an increase in uptake and alignment. The Government Secretariat of Modernisation (SGM) could build on this trend by further promoting its existing definition of open government, with a view to encouraging the move towards a single definition that is accepted by the whole public sector and external stakeholders alike. At present, most definitions refer to the principles of transparency, citizen participation and collaboration, but vary in terms of their respective scope, particularly in the cases of provincial documents. Moving towards a single definition does not mean that all institutions necessarily have to use exactly the same definition. Instead, it implies that they all share a common understanding of what open government entails (and does not entail), as well as a vision for the country’s open government agenda. Institutions should feel free to adopt a single definition that fits their own institutional realities.

Within the framework of a process to design a possible National Open Government Strategy (see below) or to co-create the next OGP Action Plan, the government could launch a consultative process for the co-creation of an updated definition. A single definition of open government would ensure better buy-in and ownership from all public institutions and stakeholders.

Ensuring that existing open government initiatives contribute to a common goal

There is high-level commitment to open government reforms in Argentina.

In order to effect a culture change, the principles and values of openness need to be identified, discussed and reinforced at every possible opportunity (OECD, 2016). In this respect, the inclusion and prioritising of open government principles in government agendas provides public institutions in charge of promoting open government reforms with a strong mandate. High-level commitment is also a sine qua non to transform open government principles into the guiding principles of a state.

In Argentina, open government principles figure among the 100 priority objectives of the government, in particular:

  • Priority 47: Citizen participation. We believe in teamwork, not only within the government but between the state and society. We want to expand these networks to work more and more with social organisations, volunteers and companies to reach the people who need it.

  • Priority 84: Open government. A contemporary state is more open, transparent and close to the citizens. With the objective of opening up public administration, we are strengthening the practices of open government at the federal level by fostering accountability, citizen participation, new technologies and public innovation.

  • Priority 89: Administrative reform. The National Public Administration needs to be updated and modernised. In order to have a state at the service of citizens, a set of initiatives must be promoted to modernise state management, redesigning support systems to build a model in line with the 21st century.

The desire to move towards an open and modern state is reflected in many of the initial actions of the current government. It is visible in the creation of a Ministry of Modernisation with a strong mandate to promote open government principles (see Chapter 4 on Implementation), the adoption of the State Modernisation Plan, and the dynamic and ambitious approach to open government principles led by the Undersecretariat for Public Innovation and Open Government (UOG).

The State Modernisation Plan reflects the government’s recognition of the value of open government reforms as a contribution to public sector modernisation.

A large number of countries around the world, including inter alia Australia, Denmark and Greece, have made open government principles a core part of their public sector reform agenda (OECD, 2016). In Argentina, the State Modernisation Plan (Plan de Modernización del Estado) provides the strategic framework for public governance reform and includes open government as one of its core elements. The Plan was adopted in 2016 (Decree 434) with the aim to “achieve a solid, modern and efficient State” (Government of Argentina, 2016). It has five areas of work:

  • technology and digital government

  • integrated human resources management

  • results-based management and public commitments

  • open government and public innovation

  • a digital country strategy.

The Plan also aims to create a platform for collaboration with provincial and municipal governments as well as the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, for use in their respective jurisdictions. In accordance with Article 2 of Decree 434, the scope of application of the State Modernisation Plan includes the central administration, decentralised organisms and self-sufficient entities, as well as companies and societies of the state.

The “open government and public innovation” area of work is sub-divided into three axes each of which has specific objectives and a list of activities. The axes are: 1) opening of data and public information, 2) public and civic innovation, and 3) citizen participation (Box 2.5).

Box ‎2.5. The open government axis of the State Modernisation Plan

Opening of data and public information

Objective:

To manage public information as a public and civic asset of a strategic nature for the strengthening of the democratic process in the development of public policies. This will be based on evidence and provision of data and information on user-focused services provided by the state, and the development of new products and services.

Activities:

  1. 1. Develop a framework of policies, processes and technological platforms that favour the management of data and information of the public sector as a civic asset.

  2. 2. Strengthen policies and mechanisms for access to public information, incorporating digital channels and processes that contribute to accelerating and improving the quality of responses.

  3. 3. Encourage the development of a vibrant ecosystem of generators, users and re-users of data and public information.

Public and civic innovation

Objective:

To promote the development of policies, instruments, capacities and platforms necessary to accelerate open innovation processes in the public sector and the growth of an ecosystem of public and civic innovation.

Activities:

  1. 1. Develop a National Innovation Strategy.

  2. 2. Develop and implement methodological instruments for the identification, formulation and acceleration of innovation projects.

  3. 3. Promote the development of an innovation ecosystem through competitions, public challenges, conferences, work days and the application of other methodologies that favour the circulation of ideas and talents among the national government, the different jurisdictions and civil society.

Citizen participation

Objective:

To provide citizens with the means, channels and opportunities necessary to express themselves, petition and participate actively in the public policy cycle.

Activities:

  1. 1. Encourage the active participation of citizens in decision-making processes, as well as in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of public policies.

  2. 2. Promote the incorporation of new technologies that promote citizen participation in government affairs.

  3. 3. Develop mechanisms, channels and platforms to facilitate public participation in the development of standards.

  4. 4. Simplify the procedures for convening and holding public hearings.

Source: Government of Argentina (2016), Plan de Modernización del Estado, Decreto 434/2016, Buenos Aires, http://servicios.infoleg.gob.ar/infolegInternet/verNorma.do?id=259082 (accessed 20 November 2018).

Co-ordination and supervision of the implementation of initiatives deriving from the Plan was entrusted to the Office of the Chief of Cabinet of Ministers (CMO), while the then MoM was charged with implementation of the Plan itself. The State Modernisation Plan shows that the Government of Argentina recognises the potential for open government reforms to improve the functioning of the state. However, the three axes of the open government and public innovation area of work are tailored mostly to the institutional mandate of the UOG (see Chapter 4 on Implementation) and are largely limited to open government’s contribution to administrative reform. Due to the focus on public governance reform (which is of course normal in the framework of a State Modernisation Plan), the Plan had to be complemented with other strategic documents that recognise the value of an open government agenda for broader policy objectives, such as fostering democracy and promoting inclusive growth.

The Federal Commitment for the Modernisation of the State aims to bring the benefits of open government to the provincial level.

Over the course of 2016, and within the framework of the State Modernisation Plan, the national government and many provinces signed co-operation agreements. Through the Federal Council for Modernisation and Innovation in Public Management (COFEMOD, see Chapter 7 on the Open State), they then developed the Federal Commitment for the Modernisation of the State (Compromiso Federal para la Modernización del Estado) in order to jointly modernise provincial administrations.

The Federal Commitment includes five sub-commitments:

  • De-bureaucratise the state.

  • Rank public employment.

  • Make public management transparent and encourage the use of innovation to provide public information and ensure citizen participation.

  • Strengthen results-based management and the quality of services and public politics.

  • Create a technological infrastructure.

Open government principles form part of the third sub-commitment. In particular, sub-commitment three aims to:

  • Promote the publication of information on public management, and encourage its reuse by society.

  • Prepare an action plan for open government policies by province, guided by the processes of the Open Government Partnership (OGP).

  • Promote the homogenisation of public information to achieve its interoperability among jurisdictions.

  • Develop innovation capacities and encourage the realisation of mechanisms for the resolution of public problems through the use of agile methodologies and civic technology.

To implement the Commitment, the national government and each province agreed on goals to be reached over the period 2017-2019. These goals were formalised in an Agreement of Commitment between the then MoM and individual provinces including the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires. At the time of writing, all but two provinces have signed such an Agreement. The national government and the provinces also explicitly invited the legislature, the judiciary and municipalities to adhere to the commitment and to combine their efforts to modernise the state. For the time being, however, none of them have adhered.

The time horizon of two years (2017-2019) is relatively short and interviews conducted within the framework of OECD fact-finding missions confirmed that provinces faced difficulties in designing ambitious reform agendas within the time limits provided. Despite these limitations, the Commitment has served to raise awareness about the importance of public governance and open government reforms and has kicked off reforms in some provinces, which, if sustained over time and complemented with additional policy initiatives, could have a transformative impact.

National line ministries are implementing a variety of open government initiatives that go beyond the OGP process.

As stated in provision 1 of the OECD Recommendation, all public institutions and levels of government should design and implement open government initiatives as part of a national agenda to engender a change towards an open government culture. The results of the fact-finding missions and OECD Surveys show that all Argentinian ministries, provinces and the other branches of power and independent public institutions have developed an initial understanding of open government (see also Chapter 7 for a discussion of open government initiatives in an open state context).

In response to the OECD Line Ministry Survey, 63% of Argentinian ministries indicated that they had elaborated their own strategy or action plan to promote open government principles. While they often referred to specific initiatives they were pursuing (such as those included in the third OGP Action Plan) rather than an independent Open Government Strategy of the institution, the fact that all Ministries have started implementing open government initiatives is a positive sign. Ministries’ initiatives to date focus mainly on opening up data (83% of ministries have implemented these kinds of initiatives), fostering digital government (71%) and implementing the access to information law (71%) (Figure 2.4). According to information received through the OECD Survey, in many cases, the then MoM provided support to ministries through capacity-building workshops, in-person assistance or the publication of operational guidelines.

Figure ‎2.4. Open government initiatives beyond the OGP in line ministries in Argentina
Figure ‎2.4. Open government initiatives beyond the OGP in line ministries in Argentina

Source: Responses to OECD (2018), OECD Surveys on Open Government in Argentina, OECD, Paris.

Open government principles have also been included in a variety of sectoral policy documents elaborated by Argentinian ministries. In fact, 80% of ministries reported that open government principles formed part of other strategic documents of their institutions. For example, the National Plan of Equal Opportunities of the National Women’s Institute (Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres) was elaborated in a participatory way, the Commitment to Education (Compromiso por la Eduación) of the Ministry of Education includes a pillar on citizen participation, and the Action Plan for the period 2018-22 of the Anticorruption Office makes explicit reference to different open government principles. Moreover, the Ministry of Defence reported that it was currently elaborating its own independent Open Government Strategy for the institution. In addition, some ministries have elaborated ambitious open government agendas, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship (Box 2.6).

Box ‎2.6. Open Diplomacy in Argentina

Argentina’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship of Argentina (commonly referred to as Cancillería) has taken a variety of open government initiatives:

  • In line with Law 27275 on the Right of Access to Public Information of 2016, the Cancillería publishes information in an open data format, including the list and composition of diplomatic representations abroad, statistics related to the candidates taking part in the national competitive exam and the catalogue of its historical archive.

  • The Cancillería has made progress in incorporating new technologies into its daily work, and offers a wide range of services to citizens that can be requested and processed online (passports, visas, certificates, etc.).

  • It has a wide presence in social media, including its own Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Flickr accounts. These accounts are regularly updated with information concerning the latest activity of the Cancillería, including visits of State, participation in international conferences or congresses, new international agreements signed, or cultural activities organised to promote Argentina. The Cancillería’s YouTube channel contains videos on specific topics, such as travelling tips, or documentaries on heritage, architecture, culture and science.

  • The Sub-Secretariat of Institutional Relations and Public Diplomacy is the area of the Cancillería responsible for the relations between the Cancillería and civil society organisations. Its mandate include the design and implementation of initiatives that lead to a higher degree of participation of the civil society in foreign affairs issues.

  • In 2003, the Cancillería created a Civil Society Advisory Council (Consejo Consultivo de la Sociedad Civil) with the aim to involve a wide range of non-governmental institutions and civil society organisations (it gathered over 1,000 institutions) in the discussions of foreign affairs. Workshops and activities were organised in order to promote dialogue and debate on foreign policy issues, with special emphasis in regional integration and Mercosur.

Source: Interviews conducted during the OECD fact-finding missions and www.cancilleria.gob.ar/.

However, most existing initiatives are implemented on an ad hoc basis, according to the specific needs of the ministry in question. Moreover, they often depend on the people that drive them (see also Chapter 4 on Implementation). If Argentina is to make open government principles the operating principles of the entire state, additional efforts will be required to provide a homogenous implementation framework that actors can rely upon and refer to. Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Open Government Implementation Plan provides an interesting example of a sectorial Open Government Plan (Box 2.7).

Box ‎2.7. Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Open Government Implementation Plan (OGIP)

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is the lead federal department for a wide range of environmental issues. The department’s programmes focus on promoting: (i) a clean environment by minimising threats to Canadians and their environment from pollution; (ii) a safe environment by equipping Canadians to make informed decisions on weather, water and climate conditions; and (iii) a sustainable environment by conserving and restoring Canada’s natural environment.

Environment and Climate Change Canada produces a wide variety of data and information collected across its Science, Regulatory, Monitoring and Weather mandates. ECCC’s programmes and services have a responsibility as stewards of departmental information to adopt open government practices as part of their operational processes, including openness and transparency goals that are integrated into the department’s Science Strategy. The proactive release of data and information functions as the starting point for the agency’s open government activity. Accordingly, the Government of Canada has firmly established an “open by default” position in its mandatory policy framework through the publication of its Directive on Open Government.

To promote openness, ECCC has developed its own Open Government Plan which aims to achieve significant progress towards key outcomes:

  • All ECCC’s data will be inventoried by 2020 in the department’s data catalogue, and all high-value datasets and information that meet the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s (TBS) defined criteria will be publicly released.

  • Open information goals (e.g. access and timeliness) will be expedited through the incorporation of open government principles and practices into the department’s management of records.

  • The department will maximise involvement in cross-government projects and tools that enhance the creation and release of data and information.

  • A culture of “open by default” and information management principles will be incorporated into ECCC’s programme delivery.

  • Accessible and reusable formats will become the default for open data and open information.

The department has supporting programmes, tools and services in place for data and records management, awareness and training, as well as a team dedicated specifically to organising and planning around the Directive. Over the last few years, programmes and senior management have been involved in the publication of data and information in support of open data. The department’s intention is to maintain this momentum and incorporate open government goals, outcomes and principles into all aspects of its mandate and programme activities.

Source: Government of Canada (2015), Open Government Implementation Plan: Environment Canada, Gatineau, Quebec, https://open.canada.ca/en/content/open-government-implementation-plan-environment-canada (accessed 10 December 2018).

The Undersecretariat for Open Government and Public Innovation has designed its own Open Government Strategy.

In 2016, the Undersecretariat for Open Government and Public Innovation in the then MoM elaborated what it referred to as the “National Open Government Strategy”. The Strategy functions as an umbrella for all activities being taken by the UOG to foster open government principles, and is divided into three axes: 1) open data, 2) public innovation, and 3) open government.

While external stakeholders were not involved in its development, the Strategy has provided inspiration to line ministries and other stakeholders that want to engage in open government reforms, by providing an overview of open government areas in which the then MoM excelled.

The Strategy is a visually appealing document and its important role in promoting open government principles cannot be neglected. However, during interviews conducted within the framework of the peer-driven OECD fact-finding mission and in the OECD Surveys, stakeholders mentioned that they were aware of the Strategy, but only a few said that they were actually making use of it when elaborating their own open government initiatives. This is not surprising, as the Strategy does not constitute a whole-of-government policy document. For the Strategy to guide the implementation of the open government agenda of the entire country and to be used by policy makers in their day-to-day work, it would need to specify a concerted vision for open government in Argentina and include strategic objectives, achievable goals and specify mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation that are applicable to the whole-of-government.

Argentina’s third OGP Action Plan acknowledges the potential of open government reforms to contribute to a wide range of policy objectives.

Countries participating in the Open Government Partnership (OGP) must elaborate a National Action Plan (NAP) every two years. In many countries, these NAPs have been among the key drivers of an open government agenda. This has also been the case for Argentina. The country joined the OGP in 2012 and developed a first NAP for 2013-14. Argentina is currently implementing its third NAP (2017-2019), which follows the second (2015-2017) (see also Chapter 6 on Monitoring and Evaluation and Chapter 7 on Citizen and Stakeholder Participation for an in-depth discussion of the design process of NAPs).

The OGP process has provided Argentina’s open government reform agenda with a structure and allowed the national government to raise the profile of open government initiatives in the country. Between the first and the third NAP, a broadening of focus areas can be identified. The first NAP focused heavily on e-government issues with commitments such as “de-paperisation” and “digital signatures”. The second NAP included one commitment with a broader focus, but was still very much rooted in the e-government discourse (for an overview of commitments included in the different NAPs, see Chapter 4 on Implementation).

The third NAP, however, reflects a belief in the value of open government reform to foster positive change across a much wider variety of areas. Its policy focus emphasises cross-cutting issues beyond the institutional-strengthening agenda and includes a more sectoral approach, with reference to topics such as climate change, education and violence against women, as advocated for by the OECD (Figure 2.5).

Figure ‎2.5. Taking a sectoral approach to open government
Figure ‎2.5. Taking a sectoral approach to open government

Source: Author’s own elaboration.

While the NAPs have allowed many countries to make progress in certain open government areas, given their two-year nature (which, in many cases, is not aligned with the government’s policy cycle) and their related focus on more short-term policy issues, they do not constitute a comprehensive whole-of-government strategy (OECD, 2018; 2016). NAPs rather constitute a compilation of priority open government initiatives and, as such, have to be complemented with a more long-term policy framework to effectively foster a cultural change.

Designing and implementing a whole-of-government National Open Government Strategy

The “big bang approach” of the open government agenda has delivered positive results, but initial progress must be institutionalised.

The then Ministry of Modernisation acted as the driver of an open government agenda that can be characterised as a “big bang approach”. At the beginning of the term and over a short period of time, the MoM developed a broad range of open government initiatives with the involvement of a number of new institutions.

The new approach to open government represents a true change of paradigm. From a narrow initial focus on e-government and ICTs in its first OGP NAP, Argentina’s open government agenda under the current government has started to mature, moving beyond the OGP process towards a much broader approach incorporating all open government principles. The progress made and the number of initiatives implemented are laudable, however there is now a need for consolidation and institutionalisation in order to guarantee the sustainability of reform efforts over the medium and long term.

A National Open Government Strategy can enable a whole-of-government approach.

Policy documents guide the implementation of policy initiatives. They set objectives, define institutional responsibilities and are, as such, key instruments for government accountability, whether national or local. Many OECD member and partner countries have a long tradition of elaborating policies/strategies in a range of policy areas (e.g. health, education, transportation, tourism, etc.). As open government is a relatively new area of work, there are currently few examples of whole-of-government policies (existing examples are detailed in the sections below). In order to take full advance of the benefits of open government reforms, the OECD suggests that countries develop an independent National Open Government Strategy (NOGS). According to OECD research, such a strategy can provide the missing link between high-level commitments (e.g. those included in the 100 priorities of the GoA), medium-term commitments included in broader strategic documents (e.g. those that form part of the State Modernisation Plan) and short-term delivery-oriented commitments included in the biannual OGP Action Plans.

The OECD Recommendation (2017) defines an Open Government Strategy as: “A document that defines the open government agenda of the central government and/or of any of its sub-national levels, as well as that of a single public institution or thematic area, and that includes key open government initiatives, together with short, medium and long-term goals and indicators.”

A National Open Government Strategy has the potential to affect all government functions and activities, and ultimately change the way that government and society relate to one another. Instead of driving individual initiatives, a NOGS enables a country to set joint priorities and can lead to a whole-of-government approach in which public institutions advance towards a common vision and shared strategic objectives. As such, a National Open Government Strategy, besides putting new general initiatives in place, should aim at making those policies and initiatives that are being implemented more coherent and stronger, by working together within the same coherent narrative and methodological setting. Box 2.8 details some of the benefits of a NOGS.

Box ‎2.8. The benefits of a National Open Government Strategy

1. A tool for effective management of an open government agenda

A medium to long-term, comprehensive and coherent Open Government Strategy is a powerful tool to manage a country’s open government agenda, as it provides a clear direction for the public administration by clarifying priorities and goals and defining the means to achieve them. A strategy is also essential to measure the performance of government actions and initiatives, based on clear and pre-defined standards and definitions.

2. A tool for effective implementation and policy coherence

A National Open Government Strategy ensures that the wide variety of open government initiatives that are implemented by public institutions are coherent and contribute to the shared objectives of a country.

3. A tool for identifying needed structural changes

A National Open Government Strategy helps to identify the structural bottlenecks that prevent open government initiatives from thriving. Such obstacles can, for instance, be linked to challenges relating to the legal framework, the institutional culture or to the design of public institutions.

4. A tool for inspiration and empowerment

A National Open Government Strategy communicates the government’s intention to build innovative, transparent and participatory policies for the administration and society as a whole. As such, a NOGS creates a powerful and coherent narrative that inspires policy makers to champion open government reforms in their areas of work. In addition, civil society can express its demands for open and innovative approaches to governance within the framework of the strategy and can take part in and contribute to better policy making.

5. A tool for public accountability

When formalised in a document that commits the government to certain key reforms, the NOGS creates pressure for specific institutions to deliver results. Stakeholders are then able to monitor the government’s achievements and analyse their compliance with the strategy’s objectives.

6. A tool for the effective allocation of human and financial resources

A whole-of-government strategy facilitates communication between public actors. As such, a strategy can be a powerful tool to articulate demands for human and financial resources. A long-term strategy can also strengthen the position of open government reformers when dealing with technical or political negotiations. In particular, it can help justify the prioritisation of scarce resources to open government policies.

7. A tool for institutional synergy

Government institutions often spend time and public resources trying to develop solutions that might already exist elsewhere. A NOGS helps to intensify joint efforts to create collaborative solutions to shared problems. A concerted NOGS can help governments to elaborate a common understanding and shared standards related to open government, thereby harmonising practices across different governmental agencies and institutions.

Source: Internal document based on OECD (2016), Open Government: The Global Context and the Way Forward, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264268104-en.

The Argentinian context raises specific considerations.

While some ministries/secretariats in Argentina have designed sectorial policy documents (e.g. on health, tourism, etc.), OECD research could only identify a small number of whole-of-government public policies currently in place. The proposed National Open Government Strategy would therefore be one of the first whole-of-government policies to be designed in Argentina.

Despite existing intentions to develop open government strategies in a variety of countries, only a limited number of comprehensive examples can be found in OECD member and partner countries (see Box 2.9 for an example from the State of North-Rhine Westphalia in Germany). In order to provide guidance to countries, the OECD is currently working on OECD Guidelines for the drafting, implementation, and monitoring and evaluating of National Open Government Strategies.

This chapter takes the draft guidelines as a basis for discussion, and presents general considerations that are applicable to all countries. These are enriched with specific consideration adapted to the Argentinian context, whenever possible. Such specific considerations could inspire the development of a NOGS in Argentina, should the country decide to move forward.

Box ‎2.9. North Rhine-Westphalia’s Open Government Strategy

The government of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) in Germany adopted an Open Government Strategy (the “Open.NRW-Strategie”) in 2014. North Rhine-Westphalia was the first federal state in Germany to initiate an independent whole-of-government Open Government Strategy for the entire state administration. Adoption of the strategy was preceded by a cross-ministerial process involving the public, which culminated in the May 2013 Future Forum on Digital Citizen Participation.

The resulting strategy includes three main components:

  • open government data

  • greater stakeholder participation

  • better co-operation between the state administration and citizens.

The Open.NRW strategy also foresees co-operation with the municipalities in North Rhine-Westphalia. In order to implement the strategy together with all ministries, a new office has been set up in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Municipal Affairs. In addition, each ministry has appointed a contact person who is responsible for implementation of the Open.NRW strategy in the ministry and the subordinate area.

Source: Government of North Rhine-Westphalia (n.d.), Über Open.NRW, https://open.nrw/information/opennrw.

While the OECD considers Argentina’s open government agenda mature enough to design such a strategy, a NOGS constitutes only one option to move towards a whole-of-government framework for open government. Argentina could also decide to pursue alternative options such as updating and upgrading its State Modernisation Strategy and the Federal Commitment for the Modernisation of the State, a national law or a directive on open government, as has been implemented in Canada and the United States.

Box ‎2.10. Open Government Directives in Canada and the United States

Canada

The Government of Canada’s Directive on Open Government took effect on 9 October 2014. It applies to federal organisations.

The objective of the Directive is to promote information management practices that enable the proactive and ongoing release of government information in order to support transparency, accountability, citizen engagement and socio-economic benefits.

As part of the Directive, the Deputy Heads of each department have designated an Information Management Senior Official, who is responsible for the following:

  • maximising the release of open data (structured data) and open information (unstructured documents and multi-media assets)

  • ensuring that information is released in accessible and reusable formats

  • developing and publishing a departmental Open Government Implementation Plan (OGIP)

  • maximising the removal of access restrictions on departmental information resources of enduring value prior to transfer to Library and Archives Canada

  • ensuring that the open government requirements of the Directive are integrated into any new plans for procuring, developing or modernising departmental information applications, systems or solutions.

The institution responsible for monitoring and reporting on compliance with all aspects of the Directive is the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.

As of February 2019, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat is working to develop a Digital Policy which will consolidate a number of existing policies on information management, IT, security and so on. A number of directives will fall under this policy, including the Directive on Open Government, which is currently being reviewed for potential revision.

United States

On 8 December 2009, as per the request of the President, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued an Open Government Directive, which was informed by recommendations from the Federal Chief Technology Officer, who solicited public comments through the White House Open Government Initiative.

The Directive is intended to direct executive departments and agencies to take specific actions to implement the principles of transparency, public participation and collaboration. In particular, the Directive requires executive departments and agencies to take the following steps:

  • Publish government information online: each agency shall create a dedicated open government website that will allow them to publish information online in open formats and interact with the public by receiving inputs to which they will respond on a regular basis. The respective annual Freedom of Information Act Report shall be published on the website of each agency.

  • Improve the quality of government information: agencies shall follow OMB guidance on information quality, and shall designate a high-level senior official who will be accountable for putting in place adequate systems and processes.

  • Create and institutionalise a culture of open government: each agency shall develop and publish an Open Government Plan that will describe how it will implement the three principles of transparency, public participation and collaboration into its activities. The plans shall be updated every two years.

  • Create an enabling policy framework for open government: policies shall evolve to adapt to the use of emerging technologies which will open up new forms of communication between the government and the people.

Source: Government of Canada (2014), “Directive on Open Government”, www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pol/doc-eng.aspx?id=28108 (accessed 10 October 2018); Government of the United States (2009), “Open Government Directive”, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/open/documents/open-government-directive (accessed 10 October 2018).

Drafting, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation of a National Open Government Strategy

The drafting process of a National Open Government Strategy

A through assessment of the situation as a first essential step

In any country, a National Open Government Strategy should be based on a thorough assessment that maps efforts to date, discusses achievements and highlights challenges ahead. This initial and fundamental step of the process provides the government and external stakeholders with the necessary information and data to make better decisions when designing the NOGS. Figure 2.6 shows key elements that could form part of this kind of assessment.

Figure ‎2.6. Elements of a situational open government assessment
Figure ‎2.6. Elements of a situational open government assessment

Source: Author’s own elaboration.

Specific considerations for Argentina:

  • This OECD Open Government Review could form the basis for Argentina’s own assessment. The government could then use this Review to inform all government institutions, the different branches of power, all levels of government and external stakeholders about the status quo of open government in the country and about the GoA’s ambition to design and implement a National Open Government Strategy.

Identifying a national government institution that co-ordinates the design process of the strategy.

The development and implementation of a National Open Government Strategy can be a long and sometimes difficult process and therefore needs sustained co-ordination. In addition to the necessary political clout, the main co-ordinating institution needs to have adequate human and financial resources, as discussed in Chapter 4 on Implementation.

Considerations for Argentina:

  • Thanks to its expertise in the area and to its strong position in the institutional setting, the Government Secretariat of Modernisation could take the overall lead in the design and implementation of the strategy. The mandate of its Undersecretariat for Open Government and Public Innovation explicitly includes a reference to the design of a strategy.

Political commitment as an essential element of the successful design and implementation of a National Open Government Strategy.

Political commitment is a prerequisite for policy and institutional changes and therefore essential for the effective design and implementation of a National Open Government Strategy. Political commitment is also critically important to guarantee the continuity of open government reforms during changes of government and political priorities.

In addition to political support from the highest level to initiate the design process, the NOGS requires a long-term commitment in order to sustain the momentum for reform during the implementation phase. To ensure this long-term commitment, it will be important to fully involve external stakeholders such as civil society organisations, and to build consensus with parliamentarians, political parties and new generations of decision makers.

Specific considerations for Argentina:

  • The incorporation of the then Ministry of Modernisation into the Office of the Chief of Cabinet of Ministers (JGM) (discussed in Chapter 4 on Implementation) places the co-ordinator of the open government reform agenda in the centre of government. In this new institutional setting, the Government Secretariat of Modernisation (SGM) will be in an ideal position to initiate the design process. Given its direct access to the President and to the Chief of Cabinet, the SGM can ensure sustained high-level commitment to open government reforms.

Stakeholder participation as a key element of a successful Open Government Strategy.

In order for the NOGS to become a whole-of-government policy, the design and implementation process should be as inclusive as possible and involve all key institutions, both inside and outside of the government, from the outset. Stakeholder participation is a key principle of open government and fostering it should not only be an objective of a NOGS (as proposed in Chapter 6 on Citizen and Stakeholder Participation), but also part of the methodology for its development and implementation.

Specific considerations for Argentina:

  • Under the overall guidance of the SGM, a newly created National Open Government Steering Committee could be the ideal forum for the design of the strategy. In order to reflect the ongoing move towards an open state, the other branches of power, independent public institutions and subnational governments could be involved through open state Meetings of the National Open Government Steering Committee and the Open Government Commission of COFEMOD (see Chapter 7 on the Open State).

  • The process to design a NOGS could be modelled on Argentina’s process to design the third NAP which – in terms of stakeholder participation – constitutes good international practice. The GoA could make use of existing connections and networks with civil society organisations and external stakeholders that were built through the process.

Defining the right time horizon for the strategy and ensuring flexibility

Strategies can have different time horizons, which vary according to a country’s specific needs and institutional culture. In most cases, the implementation horizon of whole-of-government policies ranges between one and two electoral cycles/government terms. In light of the adoption of Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), some countries have started to elaborate longer-term policies. Notwithstanding the time horizon chosen by the government, it will be important to build mechanisms for flexibility into the strategy to ensure it can be adapted to changing policy priorities.

Specific considerations for Argentina:

  • In order to foster policy continuity beyond the mandate of a single government, Argentina’s National Open Government Strategy could take a medium to long-term perspective on open government. In this regard, the upcoming elections in 2019 could provide an opportunity to design a strategy that transcends government terms.

Linking the strategy to high-level strategic documents

Given its holistic approach and the whole-of-government impact it aims to achieve, a National Open Government Strategy cannot emerge in isolation – it must communicate with other government policies and priorities. A conducive way to ground a NOGS in whole-of-government activities is therefore to link it to existing national high-level strategic documents.

Before starting to develop a NOGS there is a need to review national high-level strategies, such as national development goals, government priorities and coalition agreements, to search for relevant links with the proposed open government approach.

Specific considerations for Argentina:

  • As discussed above, the policy framework in Argentina makes ample reference to open government principles. While documents such as the State Modernisation Plan are important, it will be key for the GoA to identify further links between the proposed NOGS and sectorial strategies and policies. Strengthening the links between open government and the SDG agenda may also provide an opportunity to reach beyond the open government bubble.

Formulating a National Open Government Strategy

Policies and strategies are written according to different national traditions and can therefore take very different forms. This section presents elements that are common to most policy documents (e.g. the identification of a vision and the definition of clear objectives/priorities) and provides an overview of different ways to include initiatives in a policy.

Box ‎2.11. The structure of the Open Government Strategy of the Province of Alberta (Canada)

The Open Government Strategy of the Province of Alberta in Canada is structured as follows:

  • Vision: the main objective of the strategy.

  • Mission statement: an explanation of the identified vision and the province’s definition of open government.

  • Drivers: five key elements that motivated the province to design the strategy, including “A wealth of new digital opportunities transforming everyday life for many citizens and companies”.

  • Goals: four key objectives and related sub-objectives, including “the public service working together with citizens to make government more responsive to meeting the evolving needs of Albertans.”

  • Outcomes: five main intended results, including “increased transparency” and related measures of success such as “decreased freedom of information requests”.

  • Principles: three principles that guide the implementation of the strategy, including “open by design”.

  • Activity streams: three “streams” of effort identified by the government including concrete commitments and ministry accountabilities. Activity streams link commitments to drivers and outcomes.

Source: Province of Alberta (n.d.), Open Government Strategy, https://open.alberta.ca/dataset/3beca82e-c14a-41d0-b6a3-33dd20b80256/resource/b4661609-03a2-4917-84f8-41d0fe4d7834/download/open-government-strategy.pdf.

Defining a narrative for the strategy

Most policy documents include an initial narrative linking the document with the country’s broader policy agenda and government priorities. This fundamental part of a public policy should be written in easily understandable language as it sets the tone for the following sections and provides public institutions and external stakeholders with a common understanding of why this strategy has been developed. The narrative should be based on the initial assessment suggested below and should include qualitative and quantitative data that clearly outline the necessity of the proposed National Open Government Strategy.

Considerations for Argentina:

  • Given Argentina’s commitment to move towards an open state, the justification section of Argentina’s National Open Government Strategy could include a section jointly written by the different branches of power and levels of government. The GoA could consider using some of the data included in this Review for this section.

Identifying a vision

Any policy or strategy needs a vision. This vision should be a clear statement of what the country aims to achieve through the implementation of open government reforms. The vision of a National Open Government Strategy should be a shared long-term expectation of outcomes that can motivate different stakeholders to work on the same agenda. This “dream” should be ambitious, bold and inspiring. It should also be realisable within a realistic time horizon. The vision will guide the process of designing objectives and initiatives that constitute the substantive part of the NOGS. Examples of visions are listed in Box 2.12.

Considerations for Argentina:

  • The vision should be co-created with all stakeholders. As part of the process to develop the country’s medium/long-term vision for open government, Argentina could consider updating its existing definition of open government, as suggested at the beginning of this chapter.

  • As part of the process to identify a commonly shared vision for its National Open Government Strategy, Argentina could build on the mission statements included in the third National OGP Action Plan (“An open state for the 21st century”).

Box ‎2.12. Examples of strategic visions

Open Government Strategy of the Province of Alberta (Canada)

“A public service openly engaged with the citizens of Alberta.”

The vision is complemented by the mission statement: “To create a stronger, transparent relationship between the public service and citizens by providing access to government data and information, listening, and openly engaging with citizens while strengthening the collaborative culture within the Government of Alberta.”

United Kingdom Anti-Corruption Strategy (2017-2022)

“Our work to combat corruption will contribute towards three long-term outcomes:

  • reduced threat to our national security, including from instability caused by corruption overseas

  • increased prosperity at home and abroad, including for UK businesses

  • enhanced public confidence in our domestic and international institutions.

Tackling corruption is in the United Kingdom’s national interest. It helps to keeps us safe from threats to our safety and security, from organised crime, terrorism and illegal migration, and from ‘insiders’ who exploit their position or access to an organisation’s assets for malign purposes. The United Kingdom’s reputation for integrity underpins our ability to boost trade and attract investment. This strategy sets out actions to strengthen this reputation and safeguard our longer term prosperity. Once implemented, the strategy will improve the business environment globally, including for UK companies, where corruption is often a barrier to open and competitive markets. The strategy will counter the insidious influence of corruption and will increase confidence that our institutions are fair and work for everyone. It will contribute to building a strong, confident Global Britain.”

Ireland’s National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030

“In the decades ahead, higher education will play a central role in making Ireland a country recognised for innovation, competitive enterprise and continuing academic excellence, and an attractive place to live and work with a high quality of life, cultural vibrancy and inclusive social structures.”

Sources: Province of Alberta (n.d.), Open Government Strategy, https://open.alberta.ca/dataset/3beca82e-c14a-41d0-b6a3-33dd20b80256/resource/b4661609-03a2-4917-84f8-41d0fe4d7834/download/open-government-strategy.pdf; Department of Education and Skills (2001), National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030, Report of the Strategy Group January 2011, http://hea.ie/assets/uploads/2017/06/National-Strategy-for-Higher-Education-2030.pdf

Objectives and priorities

The strategy’s objectives ground the vision in the real world. Ideally, objectives that the country aims to achieve should be measurable, achievable and relevant. In any country, the context-specific agenda and the maturity of the open government agenda will determine the country’s open government objectives. Whole-of-government objectives (i.e. those that aim at changing the culture of government in general) can be mixed with more specific objectives (e.g. those that aim to foster change in a specific sector/policy area). In the process of defining strategic objectives, stakeholder participation is fundamental to help the government prioritise and make choices. Objectives included in a NOGS should contribute to and be clearly linked with broader government objectives and priorities.

Box 2.13 provides some examples of objectives and priorities included in relevant policy documents in OECD member and partner countries.

Box ‎2.13. Examples of objectives included in relevant strategies in OECD member and partner countries

National Strategy of Open Government Data of Peru 2017-2021

  1. 1. Promote the openness and reuse of open data that complies with the rules on transparency and access to public information and complementary rules guaranteeing the rights of citizens.

  2. 2. Strengthen governance and trust in public administration entities through open data to improve decision making and the provision of public services.

  3. 3. Promote citizen participation in the cycle of public policies and citizen collaboration for the co-creation of public value.

  4. 4. Promote innovation and use of information and communication technologies with open data to contribute to social and economic development, the information industry and competitiveness.

  5. 5. Promote public-private partnership through the opening and reuse of open data with economic and/or social impact.

  6. 6. Encourage the development of an open data ecosystem that guarantees its sustainability.

Open Government Directive of the Government of Canada

“The objective of the directive is to maximize the release of government information and data of business value to support transparency, accountability, citizen engagement, and socio-economic benefits through reuse, subject to applicable restrictions associated with privacy, confidentiality, and security.”

United Kingdom Anti-Corruption Strategy (2017-2022)

  1. 1. Reduce the insider threat in high risk domestic sectors

  2. 2. Strengthen the integrity of the UK as an international financial centre

  3. 3. Promote integrity across the public and private sectors

  4. 4. Reduce corruption in public procurement and grants

  5. 5. Improve the business environment globally

  6. 6. Work with other countries to combat corruption.

Source: Government of Peru (2017), Estrategia Nacional de Datos Abiertos Gubernamentales del Perú 2017-2021, www.peru.gob.pe/estrategia.pdf; Government of Canada (2014), Directive on Open Government, www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pol/doc-eng.aspx?id=28108; Government of the United Kingdom (2017), United Kingdom Anti-corruption strategy 2017 to 2022, www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-anti-corruption-strategy-2017-to-2022.

Specific considerations for Argentina:

  • Argentina could tailor some of the objectives it plans to include in an eventual Open Government Strategy to its ambition to move towards an open state, as discussed in Chapter 7 on an Open State. All branches of power and levels of government could, for instance, be given the opportunity to include relevant objectives in the NOGS.

  • As discussed in Chapter 5 on Monitoring and Evaluation, objectives should be measurable. It will be important for Argentina to involve key actors of the national monitoring and evaluation system in the NOGS design process.

Designing and integrating open government initiatives into the National Open Government Strategy

In order to make the link to day-to-day policy making, a National Open Government Strategy needs to define practical ways to achieve its stated vision and shared objectives. Initiatives should detail concrete achievable steps that show how the government and key stakeholders aim to implement the strategy. According to the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Open Government (2017), open government initiatives are “actions undertaken by the government, or by a single public institution, to achieve specific objectives in the area of open government, ranging from the drafting of laws to the implementation of specific activities such as online consultations”. Box 2.14 details the characteristics of successful open government initiatives, while Figure 2.7 shows the key role of initiatives in building the bridge between the initial assessment and the country’s vision and objectives.

Box ‎2.14. Characteristics of successful open government initiatives

No matter which approach a country choses, when developing new open government initiatives or incorporating existing initiatives into the National Open Government Strategy certain key features of successful open government initiatives should be considered. In an ideal case, initiatives should be:

Aligned to the overall vision and the objectives of the strategy

The purpose of open government initiatives is to give substance to the Open Government Strategy. The initiatives, therefore, should be coherent with the policy’s intended vision and its objectives/priorities.

Cross-cutting and cross-sectoral

The implementation of open government initiatives is not an end in itself. It should lead to positive outcomes in policy areas as diverse as infrastructure, education and the fight against corruption. Open government initiatives to be included in a NOGS should therefore be cross-cutting and cross-sectoral.

Built on pre-existing work

Open government initiatives to be included in the National Open Government Strategy do not have to be new. Initiatives that are already in place can also be assimilated into the new Strategy, which in turn legitimises, rationalises and strengthens them by providing them with a powerful narrative and a broader framework. As such, a National Open Government Strategy can make initiatives that are already in place more coherent and stronger by working together under the same coherent narrative and methodological setting.

Linked to the budget

Developing and implementing an Open Government Strategy may involve reforming laws and institutions, developing new skills, new technologies and platforms, and so on, all of which requires human and financial resources. Adequate funding is therefore vital for efficient and sustainable implementation of open government reforms. The National Open Government Strategy should ensure that funding is as transparent and as consistent as possible. Costs should be assessed realistically and, wherever possible, integrated into the national budget.

Anchored by the open government approach

Initiatives should, whenever possible, be designed in collaboration with different stakeholders and foster collaboration between civil society and public bodies.

Source: Author’s own elaboration.

Figure ‎2.7. The key role of open government initiatives
Figure ‎2.7. The key role of open government initiatives

Source: Author’s own elaboration.

Initiatives can be integrated into a National Open Government Strategy in different ways. Each of these approaches has its advantages, and the eventual selection of one approach may depend on contextual cultural and the administrative features of a country.

Approach 1: All initiatives are included in the National Open Government Strategy

In this approach, the National Open Government Strategy defines the overall vision, sets objectives and specifies all initiatives that are going to be implemented by public institutions over the implementation period. While there are important differences, this model is closest to the one proposed by the OGP Action Plan. It may therefore be most suited to countries that are not members of the OGP and that aim to initiate an open government agenda. In this model, the strategy usually takes a short to medium-term perspective.

Figure ‎2.8. Including all initiatives in the National Open Government Strategy
Figure ‎2.8. Including all initiatives in the National Open Government Strategy

Source: Author’s own elaboration.

Specific considerations for Argentina:

  • Should Argentina wish to adopt this model, the country could include general initiatives in the NOGS (rather than specific commitments, as is the case in the OGP Action Plan). These general initiatives should be broad enough to enable different institutions to implement them at the same time (e.g. creating access to information offices in each institution, working on a citizen participation law, etc.). As such, the general initiatives would contribute to a whole-of-government approach in which ministries advance together towards shared objectives.

Approach 2: A working group periodically defines a whole-of-government working/action plan to implement the strategy

In this approach, the strategy provides the narrative, sets the vision and details the vision and the objectives, while initiatives are designed periodically (in most cases annually or biannually) along the implementation process by means of a national open government working/action plan. The definition of initiatives is centralised by a single institution or – in an ideal case – by a Steering Committee which involves different stakeholders.

In this model, countries that participate in the OGP can use their OGP Action Plan to implement specific commitments (which should also be aligned with the strategy’s objectives), while the national open government working plan(s) would define broader initiatives and priorities that contribute progressively to the achievement of the strategy’s vision. Initiatives that conform to the working plan(s) should be broad enough to be implemented by a variety of institutions. In this model, the strategy usually takes a medium to long-term perspective.

Figure ‎2.9. Defining a whole-of-government open government working/action plan
Figure ‎2.9. Defining a whole-of-government open government working/action plan

Source: Author’s own elaboration.

Specific considerations for Argentina:

  • In order to reflect Argentina’s move towards an open state, every branch of power and different level of government could elaborate their own working/action plans that contribute to the policy’s overall vision and objectives.

  • The open state Meetings of the National Open Government Steering Committee (CNGA), which is suggested in Chapter 4 on Implementation; would have the responsibility of ensuring that the action plans of each branch of power and of independent public institutions are aligned and contribute to the objectives of the National Open Government Strategy.

  • The CNGA would have the role of defining the action plan of the executive branch of power (currently performed by the Roundtable for the OGP Action Plan), while the subnational working plans could be discussed in the Open Government Commission of COFEMOD (see Chapter 7 on the Open State). The legislature and the judiciary could create their own steering committees to define their action plans.

Approach 3: Each institutions defines its own open government working plans

In this approach, the National Open Government Strategy foresees that all public institutions would elaborate their individual open government working/action plans in order to achieve commonly agreed objectives. The resulting institutional open government working plan is an official document in which public institutions commit to certain open government initiatives. Institutions have autonomy to decide on initiatives that they are going to implement in the next policy cycle and that contribute to the vision and objectives of the overall NOGS.

Figure ‎2.10. Defining independent open government working plans for each institution
Figure ‎2.10. Defining independent open government working plans for each institution

Source: Author’s own elaboration.

Specific considerations for Argentina:

  • In this scenario, each individual ministry would develop and implement its own open government action plan (possibly on an annual or biannual basis) using the National Open Government Strategy as a basis. The NOGS would have to specify methodologies and so on for the institutional work plans, and strong mechanisms for reporting and monitoring and evaluation would have to be established.

  • Provinces and institutions from all branches of power and independent public institutions could be invited to also develop their own action plans.

Approach 4: Institutions define initiatives that contribute to the achievement of the strategy’s objectives at their own pace

In this scenario, the National Open Government Strategy’s vision and its objectives function as a general guideline that public institutions follow at their own pace. Each individual institution designs and implements its own open government initiatives without developing an institutional action/working plan.

This model grants a high level of autonomy to public institutions and is best applied in countries that have a very mature open government agenda. The main role of the co-ordinating institution is to raise awareness, support institutions in the elaboration of their own open government initiatives and monitor the achievement of the objectives of the overall policy.

Figure ‎2.11. Defining initiatives at different paces
Figure ‎2.11. Defining initiatives at different paces

Source: Author’s own elaboration.

Specific considerations for Argentina:

  • In Argentina, some public institutions are still in the early stages of developing open government agendas, while others have been working on open government for considerable amounts of time. This model may be suitable to Argentina in the future, but the OECD considers that it may be premature at this point of time.

Recommendations

Fostering the use of a single definition of open government

  • Move towards a single definition of open government that is accepted by the whole public sector, all branches of power, independent public institutions, subnational government and external stakeholders (e.g. CSOs, academia, etc.).

  • Consider launching a consultative process for the creation of an updated definition that would ensure even better buy-in and ownership from all these institutions and all stakeholders. The consultative process could take place within the framework of the process to design the National Open Government Strategy, as discussed below.

  • Encourage individual institutions to continue elaborating and using their own definitions of open government that are based on the single definition and share similar conceptual understandings.

Providing the link between existing open government initiatives

  • Ensure that existing policy documents that include open government initiatives, such as the OGP Action Plans and the State Modernisation Plan, reinforce each other and promote forms of implementation that contribute to a shared vision and common objectives.

  • Continue making use of the OGP Action Plans to engage new actors and to promote targeted open government initiatives (i.e. commitments) that contribute to broader policy objectives (e.g. the fight against climate change, education, etc.).

Designing and implementing a whole-of-government National Open Government Strategy

  • Design a National Open Government Strategy in order to enable a whole-of-government approach to open government that makes those initiatives already in place more coherent and stronger.

  • Ensure strong links between the National Open Government Strategy and other existing high-level policy documents that include initiatives to foster open government principles.

  • Make use of a possible National Open Government Steering Committee (as proposed in Chapter 4 on Implementation) and its open state Meetings to foster the creation of a common vision and shared objectives for open government in Argentina.

  • Co-create a National Open Government Strategy with all key stakeholders, including civil society organisations, academia and the private sector.

  • Consider involving the legislature, the judiciary and independent public institutions as well as subnational levels of government (provinces and municipalities) in the design and implementation process of the strategy (see also ‎Chapter 7. on the Open State).

References

Department of Education and Skills (2001), National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030, Report of the Strategy Group January 2011, .http://hea.ie/assets/uploads/2017/06/National-Strategy-for-Higher-Education-2030.pdf (accessed 20 November 2018).

Government of Argentina (2016), Plan de Modernización del Estado [State Modernisation Plan], Decreto 434/2016, Buenos Aires, http://servicios.infoleg.gob.ar/infolegInternet/verNorma.do?id=259082 (accessed 20 November 2018).

Government of Canada (2015), Open Government Implementation Plan: Environment Canada, Gatineau, Quebec, https://open.canada.ca/en/content/open-government-implementation-plan-environment-canada (accessed 10 December 2018).

Government of Canada (2014), Directive on Open Government, www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pol/doc-eng.aspx?id=28108 (accessed 10 December 2018).

Government of Canada (2014), Directive on Open Government, www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pol/doc-eng.aspx?id=28108.

Government of Peru (2017), Estrategia Nacional de Datos Abiertos Gubernamentales del Perú 2017-2021, www.peru.gob.pe/estrategia.pdf;

Government of the United Kingdom (2017), United Kingdom Anti-corruption strategy 2017 to 2022, www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-anti-corruption-strategy-2017-to-2022.

Government of the United States (2009), Open Government Directive, Washington, DC, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/open/documents/open-government-directive (accessed 10 October 2018).

OECD (2018), OECD Public Governance Reviews: Paraguay: Pursuing National Development through Integrated Public Governance, OECD Public Governance Reviews, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264301856-en.

OECD (2017), Recommendation of the Council on Open Government, OECD, Paris, https://legalinstruments.oecd.org/en/instruments/OECD-LEGAL-0438 (accessed 30 November 2018).

OECD (2016), Open Government: The Global Context and the Way Forward, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264268104-en.

OECD (2015), OECD Survey on Open Government Co-ordination and Citizen Participation in the Policy Cycle, OECD, Paris.

OECD (2001), Citizens as Partners: OECD Handbook on Information, Consultation and Public Participation in Policymaking, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264195578-en.

Province of Alberta (n.d.), Open Government Strategy, https://open.alberta.ca/dataset/3beca82e-c14a-41d0-b6a3-33dd20b80256/resource/b4661609-03a2-4917-84f8-41d0fe4d7834/download/open-government-strategy.pdf (accessed 30 November 2018).

Yu, H and D. Robinson (2012), “The new ambiguity of ‘Open Government’”, UCLA Law Review Discourse, Vol. 178/2012, 28 February 2012, http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2012489.

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