Live blogging will begin at 09:15 this morning. #ogpIRL
The agenda for today: http://www.ogpireland.ie/2013/07/09/agenda-final-for-july-10-meeting/
So we’re ready to go with our first major public meeting, ready to start creating Ireland’s National Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership. And a great day for it!
The great and good of Ireland’s open government and open data communities are gathering, along with the curious, the interested and the committed. Should be a good day and a rich conversation.
Wood Quay is lovely in the sunshine, and we’re going to talk about letting that sun shine in to the workings of government…
Getting ready to roll…a hush falls….
Nuala Haughey of Transparency International Ireland, who are co-ordinating the civil society and public consulation, is at the podium and introducing Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin
Remember this is being live-streamed – button on the website…
Gavin Jennings is so young! Been listening to him for years – that mature RTE voice. He’s posing the question: is Ireland an open or closed society?
Why now? Why OGP? Jennings asks Minister Howlin. The reform agenda is equally important as balancing the books, Minister replies.
Freedom of Information Act was ‘eviscerated’ in 2003, and his government aims to restore it, Minister Howlin says at OGP Ireland consultation meeting in Dublin
Media at doorstep wanted to talk about abortion, but this [OGP] is important too, Howlin tells meeting
Jennings asks Minister about previous stance that the Open Government Partnership would cost too much.
You can be cynical about these things, Howlin replies, but it is now under way.
April next year is deadline for National Action Plan, Minister Howlin tells OGP Ireland meeting
Can you be believed on Open Government promises, bold Jennings asks Minister Howlin. I believe in dialogue on these matters, Howlin counters.
As a matter of routine, all public information will be accessible to all citizens under Open Government. This will ‘take the mystique’ out of Freedom of Information, Howlin says
Howlin now being asked about garda info and Freedom of Information
We have to rebuild trust in the way we are governing ourselves, speaker from the floor notes. ‘We don’t own the power, so we have to use checks and balances…to limit the powerful’.
Freedom of Information should be in the Constitution, rather than wait for the civil servants, speaker from the floor says.
John Handelaar of kildarestreet.com on his feet, asking Minister a question.
How do we intend to enforce openness, free information, Handelaar asks.
Howlin says new official has been appointed.
Irony in opening up government while limiting major decisions to four ministers? Jennings asks Howlin.
This government has the most open discussions, with full Cabinet, that I have ever seen, Howlin says.
Much data not machine-readable, questioner says. What about that? I am afraid I’m not a techie, Minister admits. Now here’s Eamon Ryan, who is a bit techie…
Ryan asks if civil servants are still allowed to maintain their own reasons for withholding government data.
Freedom of information has to be part of an overall positive approach to open government, speaker from floor says. FoI has been hijacked to a degree, he believes, to the detriment of personal, private searches
Access to information, and use of information, are two key areas of FoI debate, Minister says. Information that everyone has is no longer a great exclusive, and as a matter of routine, all information [as far as practicable] should be released.
Edward Stevenson asks about looking into Coillte as an Open Government exercise. Minister says it would be a matter for the Oireachtas, under new legislation. But there will be ‘lifting of lid’ into government departments across the board.
Questioner gives details of eye-popping sums asked for environmental survey data going back years…he appealed but it is ‘sitting in an enormous queue’, and he has been waiting a year and a half. No case officer even assigned yet.
I’m sure that’s true, in terms of backlogs, Minister says.
Female questioner asks about property tax deliberations, and when citizens could get access to that.
Dialogue like today’s meeting is important, Howlin says – dialogue with civil society.
Aarhus Convention (on environmental information) comes up…from the floor, some criticism of Irish enactment of same.
Minister Howlin session is finished now, and Nat O’Connor of TASC is introducing the next, ‘Open Government in Action’. O’Connor makes cool reference to Martin Luther back in the day, and how ML critiqued lack of accountability, and also made the Bible a kind of ‘open data’ by printing it.
Prof David Farrell now, and talking about citizen participation. Says some credit should be given to current government re efforts on freedom of information reform, registration of lobbyists, etc.
Participatory budgeting’, invented in Brazil, gives citizens power over expenditure, Farrell says. It has spread, now being used in UK too. It’s a good idea – and although ‘vague in the extreme’, is now being mentioned in Irish government documents.
Gavin Sheridan, of @gavinsblog fame, is now taking the stage.
G Sheridan says rights to information are tied to rights of freedom of expression. How can I make an informed decision, such as voting, without the information I need?
G Sheridan taking us through current legislative instruments, regulations, which can be used to get information out of The System, such as EC Regulation 1049/2001, and Freedom of Information Act 2000, the UK Act, can also be used by Irish people.
Denis Parfenov of Active Citizen up now. Information empowers all of us to make better-informed decisions, about health, food, education, pension plans, and the public representatives we elect, he tells us.
John Handelaar up now.
My quest to find out who represented me in the national parliament – it was impossible without picking up a phone (2005), John Handelaar tells us.
Postcodes is the next hot potato to assist data retrieval – however it’s been cooling a good while, John Handelaar says. They’re coming ‘next year’, he has heard – and has heard often before.
How would we ever have got the Aarhus Convention through in Ireland without the EU, male speaker from the floor says. His point is that not all that has gone before was negative. Planning Act of 1953, though much maligned, did give people rights to look at plans etc. We do have examples of success here, which pre-date IT, he notes.
FoI is predominantly to do with individual requests. PSI – public service information – is a bigger challenge, to get govt departments to release information in blocks, says speaker from floor.
And now for a cuppa… Paul Maasseen of Open Government Partnership Civil Society global hub will be Skyping us all after that.
Paul Maassen is going to do the ‘nuts and bolts’ stuff, the process part of the Open Government Partnership journey, says Nuala Haughey, introducing him on the big screen.
We in Ireland have the ‘luxury’ of joining the Open Government Partnership now that it’s well up and running, with more than 50 countries already doing it, says Maassen
OGP is about better policies, less corruption, better health and education, Maassen says.
Review of first year of OGP showed importance of clarity on terms of reference, having a co-ordinator to guide the process. Second point: get organised! Third: establish ongoing dialogue between government and civil society. One-off dialogue doesn’t work – it has to be continual, says Paul Maassen.
Consult widely! Don’t limit consultation to the open data people, the environment people, or other specific interest groups. Let everyone in. All in the spirit of building a partnership – Paul M
First step: start with an open mind. Approach each other with a position of respect – we must be willing to listen to others and discuss. Wise counsel from Paul Maassen, via giant Skype screen
Questioner from floor raises good issue – what in OGP ensures that standards are met, and commitments by government realised? Another q: to what extent has anxiety in the civil service been a barrier to letting information get out.
OGP civil society expert Paul Maassen – there are no established criteria around accepting National Action Plans (the end point of the process we have started in Dublin today). OGP itself is currently working on improving the rules of the game.
Some of the commitments made in countries’ National Action Plans to date have not been sufficiently ambitious, Maassen says.
Nuala Haughey (Irish civil society co-ordinator) explaining whole process more. There will be two more large meetings after today – August 8 and September 5. Transparency International Ireland will be feeding in best practice wherever it can in the time inbetween – and the conversation continues online.
Now the meeting has broken up into working groups, on the themes of Accountability, Technology (Innovation), Citizen Participation, and Transparency. Good group leaders including John Handelaar, Ivan Cooper of The Wheel, Nat O’Connor of TASC and Imelda Higgins BL.
We’re back – dragged selves back in from sunshine – but for a good cause. John Devitt of TII now introducing the afternoon session of OGP consultation meeting. Nat O’Connor of TASC back up next, talking about the Transparency working group.
Culture change needed: general public has to want open government, be aware of its benefits. Cost could be a barrier to transparency – Nat of the Transparency working group.
Imelda Higgins giving report of Accountability group: what are people accountable for, how do you make sure they adhere to standards, and what do you do if they don’t!
Costs again rears its head as an identified problem, this time for accountability – legal costs in particular. And best practice internationally should be sought and followed. Imelda H now finished presentation.
John Handelaar now reporting from Technology and Innovation group. First problem identified: ‘Others have more and better data before we even get started’ [Other countries that is]. Another good line: ‘Innovators and companies have no awareness of open data…’
‘…and those which do are at the mercy of government providers’
Almost no complete data sets published by government, including local government – Fingal Council an honourable exception @handelaar
Data release in reusable formats is already government policy but it’s not happening (last words in bold!) Handelaar and technology/innovation working group report at OGP meeting
Ivan Cooper takes floor for Citizen Participation group report. They took it from the basics – what is open government about? Do we have rights to participate, or are we ‘allowed’ – that’s the question.
We’ve become used to top-down decision-making, and we need strategies to change this mindset. Power needs to return to local levels, and real outcomes to be shown – Ivan Cooper’s group
‘The delusion of the elected and the collusion of the citizens’ – a nice line about problems society faces, poetically put by Ivan Cooper at the flip-board
People feel intimidated by expert language on economy, for ex. Reframe simply! That would help citizen participation. Ivan Cooper doing a fluid report of busy Citizen Participation working group at OGP Consultation
‘Prosecute the criminal misuse of power – find paradigm champions for change’ – conclusions of Citizen Participation working group.
New social contract needed – big thinking from Cooper group. If participation is to happen, must be budget for it. Inequalities must be reduced – and call for the broadest education possible.
Call to address the digital divide – Cooper acknowledges that many people, when discussion centres on open data for ex, are left out due to lack of pre-existing information. And also: create spaces and places where people and citizens can actively participate in discussion and decision. More poetic touches!
Hans Zomer from Dochas at podium now. We’re at Q&A, summary, looking forward stage. Are we being too ambitious? Are we trying to solve everything in Ireland? And on top of that, he makes everyone stand up! And asks those who remain standing to do so because they think we are on the right path. Only two of crowd remain seated. One says he thinks focus on open data is not enough.
@Handelaar takes up the point of the ‘sitter’, and agrees that open data alone will not bring about major change in Ireland. Now female speaker focuses on the sorts of things that need to go into the Action Plan, which is to be drawn up by way of the consultation process.
Speaker in Wood Quay audience poses that old chestnut: how do we keep up the momentum? It’s a challenge for the consultation process.
Zomer says we should manage expectations in this process – is the wish-list too long?
‘An energizing day’, ‘really useful’ – but there is in fact too much agreement! says Mr O’Sullivan from Oxfam, in audience at OGP meeting. Let’s have the kickback early rather than late, he suggests.
Each civil servant is a direct employee of the minister, says speaker in audience. We must be very clear – we can’t expect civil servants to come to functions like today’s meeting and speak independently of the minister. That’s a deeper problem than Open Government Partnership, he says.
Civil servant in the house – William Beausang, senior man in DPER. He’s making his contribution now. There will be opportunity to share consultation with govt and civil service reps. Notes that this is a new way to do things, rather than the traditional govt or civil service-led process.
Must be continuous process, must outreach to as many people around the country as we can, says Denis Parfenov of Active Citizen.
Key questions of this consultation need to be tested among the public – especially with those people who would never actually turn up to meetings like the one at Wood Quay today – woman speaker in audience.
John Devitt of Transparency International Ireland says it’s important to engage in dialogue in an ongoing process, beyond even the creation of the National Action Plan for Open Government Partnership in Ireland.
‘Irish people have a tendency to accept a lot,’ says speaker in audience. And…’If the troika came in tomorrow’ and threw its weight behind OGP, we’d have the best version in the world, he suggests.
Important to have a robust written continuation of today’s meeting, up to and including August 8 meeting, Imelda Higgins notes.
Nuala Haughey drawing the threads together now to round off the day (sorry for mixing metaphors – it’s been a busy one).
Remember to keep visiting the ogpireland.ie website, and sign up for regular updates. Get your thoughts down – submissions are accepted, and the discussion platform attached to website will be ready very soon.
Reminds us again that Transparency Int Ireland is co-ordinating the process, and will try to find out examples of best practice in consultation process, and let everyone know. The conversation of course is a two-way street – even a radial.
Do we want to set up a joint steering group, with civil society reps and government reps as well? That’s how the OGP planning process has been done in some countries, Nuala tells gathering. We hope to finalise the action plan before the end of the year. Next high-level meeting of the Open Government Partnership is April 2014, and that’s when the OGP will look at validating Irish membership.