Irish Govt urged to open its data to citizens to prove accountability

21 Jun 2012

The Irish Government has been called upon to follow US President Barack Obama’s lead and join the Open Government Partnership to drive transparency and innovation in Ireland. It would also send out a strong signal about its intentions towards accountability to citizens, an independent TD has said.

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a new international initiative aimed at securing concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, increase civic participation, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to make government more open, effective, and accountable.

A multi-stakeholder International Steering Committee, co-chaired by the United States and Brazil in its inaugural year, is comprised of government and civil society representatives from around the world.

A high-level international meeting is being hosted by the US Department of State in Washington in July, at which senior officials from the UK, US, Mexico and India will show how they are harnessing new technologies to make government more open and accountable.

Openness, transparency, accountability

Stephen Donnelly, an Independent TD for Wicklow and East Carlow, has called on the Government to follow Obama’s lead and join the Open Government Partnership.

“Fifty-five countries have joined the Open Government Partnership since US President Barack Obama launched it last September, but the Government has said it has no plans to do so,” he said.

“This is a shame, and undermines the Government’s constant claims to be championing innovation, particularly in internet and communications technology.

“The Open Government Partnership aims to radically open up governments to scrutiny from their citizens. The idea of ‘open government’ is that citizens have the right to access the documents and data compiled by their government.

“Not only is it good for transparency, but it’s also good for business and innovation. Making raw data available allows tech innovators to come up with new ways of making that data work for citizens. This can lead to valuable new products, as well as to improved services and citizen participation.”

Donnelly said that this should already be on the Government’s agenda.

Internet freedom

“Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore held a successful conference on internet freedom in Dublin this week, as part of Ireland’s position as chair of the OSCE for 2012, and is clearly keen to further Ireland’s work in this area.

“Seventy-three countries attended the first annual Open Government Partnership meeting in Brazil in April this year, at which (US Secretary of State) Hillary Clinton made a passionate call for countries to follow the principles of ‘open government’. If Ireland is to market itself as a hub of innovation, we need to be at these meetings. As Hillary Clinton said, one of the key things dividing countries, in the 21st century, will be whether they are open or closed societies. Ireland should be at the vanguard of the drive for openness.

“I am calling on Eamon Gilmore to take the lead on this issue, to ensure that Ireland joins the Open Government Partnership as soon as possible, and to help drive transparency and innovation in Ireland,” Donnelly said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years