Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Open government doesn't just happen - contribute now to Australia's Open Government Partnership National Action Plan

Open government means different things to different people, and in Australia, where our government is already quite open, it's sometimes not considered such a priority.

However alongside our open data, public consultations, freedom of information laws and transparent voting systems, there's still many areas where the Australian government could lift its openness and improve public confidence and involvement in our democracy.

Right now Australia is engaged in developing its first ever National Action Plan for open government, part of the process to become a full member of the Open Government Partnership and a step that aims to strengthen our democracy in the eyes of Australians and the world.

There's benefits in the process for everyone in Australia.

For the community there's the potential to improve the inclusiveness and transparency of decision-making - leading to better outcomes for individuals and groups, supporting both Australia's 'fair go' culture and our lifestyle choices, ranging from health and education to workplace safety and career decisions.

For businesses greater government openness can provide a more level playing field for government contracts and access to important population data that can influence commercial decisions. There's opportunities for enterprises to use open data to extend their services and products, or even to build new businesses.

For government agencies there's also benefits. Being able to see what other agencies are doing, researching and the data they hold with less bureaucratic friction helps accelerate and improve policy development and support more nuanced responses to complex challenges. There can be greater capability to identify and address illegal or corrupt behaviour and to work with non-government organisations to design solutions that address both political needs and community needs.

However despite these and other benefits, open government doesn't just happen by itself, it takes concerted thought and effort by individuals and groups, and a willingness on the part of government to move the needle forward on transparency.

Right now Australians have an opportunity to move this needle.

The National Action Plan being led from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet offers a significant opportunity to suggest and discuss the priority actions that could be undertaken in Australia, by the government alone or with the participation of civil society and the community, to further enhance our government openness and transparency.

Feel free to approach this opportunity with optimism or skepticism - there's good reasons for both perspectives depending on your past experience with government in Australia.

However, don't discount or overlook this opportunity.

People who claim to support more open government in Australia but fail to engage are only demonstrating that they don't back their own views with action. It's easy to trash talk government, it's harder to actually formulate sound and achievable options that can lead to action and change.

So if you've ever complained about government's lack of transparency during a consultancy or decision-making process, found it difficult or impossible to source useful or important information from an agency or feel that any part of Australian government has acted in a self-serving or corrupt manner on a particular topic - contribute to this process positively.

There's a range of ways to contribute, but the window to submit action priorities is closing soon, at the end of February 2016.

To learn more visit

To contribute your priorities, visit:

And to join like-minded folk from the community to discuss the process and priorities, visit:

Or, if you prefer not to get involve and simply sit back and complain about how the government isn't open enough, read below:

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