Open Government: The Need for Readiness Assessment Framework

Since the Open Government Initiative was kick-started in the United States in 2009, the implementation of the concept has exceeded the borders of US to other countries around the world. Australia Declaration of Open Government and Canada Open Data Project are only two examples of these countries.

During the last few weeks, I’ve been in several meetings with officials from different government entities in United Arab Emirates (UAE) discussing how to formally start offering some open data on the websites of these entities. The discussions didn’t aim at formulating a government-wide open data infinitive, but rather it focused on publishing some data sets on some government websites (could be considered a pilot project). However, the discussions reminded me about the importance of not falling into the “country context gap” trap when tackling the Open Government and its related topics. The country context gap is widely considered as one of the reasons behind limited success in implementing e-Government (Gov 1.0) projects in many countries.

To avoid this, I believe there is a need an Open Government Readiness Assessment Framework.

This framework should examine the local context of a country and determine to what extent there is a “real” need for Open Government and what are the most appropriate approaches to go for it. More specifically, I think the framework should mainly provide answers to the following questions among others:

  • Do we “really” need it? Why? And to what extent?
  • What are the most appropriate approach to open the government?
  • What are the main challenges facing the implementation of open government?
  • How to deal with these challenges?

In my search for such a framework I came across some tools like the Open Government Framework and the Capability Assessment Toolkit for Sharing Justice Information both developed by Center of Technology at Government at University at Albany (thanks @CTG_UAlbany for sharing!).

While searching for other tools, I’m currently reviewing these two tools to see to what extent they could be used in answering the questions above but more important, if they can be transformed to a global Open Government Readiness Assessment Model … away from the American context.

I appreciate if you have any resources to share with me or if you have any comment to add.

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Alison Heaphy

Just wanted to update you that CTG’s “Open Government Decision Making Tool” will be publicly available in late April – we will definitely share the link with you. Also, since it is hard to say a lot on twitter, just wanted to add that it is not a readiness assessment framework, but a tool for agencies already engaging in open government initiatives. The tool takes a portfolio-based approach to focus attention on the overall value across an agency’s open government programs and projects. The tool takes our public value framework and operationalizes it in a planning tool designed to help government officials identify and understand the intended impact of open government initiatives. It helps the agency identify the public value of the open government effort and the impacts on stakeholders. The tool helps agency’s interested in answering the question: Does our open government portfolio, taken as a whole, optimize our resources and capabilities while meeting our mission and delivering maximum public value to all stakeholders?

The issue of readiness or capability for open government initiatives is different. We have worked on capability/readiness assessment in other domains (justice and digital preservation) that may be useful for opening government. However, we would have to modify these other toolkits to make them more directly useful for open government initiatives. Please let us know if you are interested in discussing that kind of work.

Ibrahim Elbadawi

Thank you Alison for your comment, the update about your ongoing work and for the clarifications. What I like most about the Decision Making Tool as you described it is that it focuses on assessing the overall public value of open gov initiatives and checking the alignment of these initiatives with the agency’s overall mission. This is another important dimension to consider. So, I think it can be put this way: the Readiness Assessment tool as I presented it can help in testing the government readiness to go open and identifying its potential opportunities and challenges while the Decision Making tool is needed to guarantee the alignment of open gov initiatives with the agency’s mission and measuring the public value delivered to stakeholders.

For sure I’m interested this doing research in this topic, please feel free to communicate with me through email ([email protected])

Thanks again for your time and comment.

Daniel Honker

Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Ibrahim. CTG has some great resources, including the Public Value Framework Alison mentioned — I’m a big fan of theirs as well.

The point you raised that really sticks with me is the need to articulate if and why we really need opengov. From a change-management perspective, this is a shift in how government operates that hinges on a compelling “case for change” — essentially why we’re doing this, and how it contributes to government’s mission. And this case can be made at two levels: macro and micro, but with different results, I believe. The macro-level argument is essentially the need for more government responsiveness and agility, which everyone seems to be agreeable to. I think the more powerful case is how open government efforts can benefit the mission at the micro level — how open data can help improve environmental remediation in the Puget Sound, for example.

The macro argument for opengov is compelling, but it’s not going to convince public servants to do their job differently. More traction can be made by explaining how opengov can help a particular business line, bureau, or office do its job better. I think it’s that level where readiness assessments would be really useful.