Open Government Partnership

Researcher: Steven Price, Senior Research Fellow

The report on New Zealand is now available online.

UPDATE: The government has released its self assessment of its Action Plan. You can find it here here.

Your chance to grade the government on its commitment to open government

As you might know, the New Zealand government has signed up to the Open Government Partnership, a forum of countries working to promote government that is open, accountable and responsive to citizens.

Last year, the New Zealand government issued its first OGP Action Plan. It sets out commitments by the government aimed at improving our systems of integrity, transparency, participation and accountability over the ensuing two years.

Under the OGP process, there’s an organisation based in Washington DC that assesses each government’s Action Plan. Did the government consult properly on it? Is it effective? Ambitious? What are its strengths and weaknesses? How might it be done better?

To help them out, the OGP organisation hires local researchers. I am the local researcher for New Zealand. In conjunction with the New Zealand Centre for Public Law, I am gathering information and views on our country’s Action Plan. I’m interested in what you’ve got to say about it.

This page is designed to give you an opportunity to set out your views. It summarises the Action Plan and provides a link to it, and to the State Service Commission’s pages on it. Since New Zealand’s Action Plan incorporates various other government initiatives, it provides links to them too. It also links to the OGP international site, and some other key documents.

I invite you to browse this material, and then provide your own feedback. You can do this by:

  • Emailing me your thoughts at steven.price@vuw.ac.nz
  • Discussing your views by telephone or in person. My number is 04 463 6336. My mobile number is 022 026 2997.
  • Attending a meeting in Wellington to discuss the Action Plan. The date for this is yet to be arranged. Email me if you are interested and I will provide details.

The Open Government Partnership

The Open Government Partnership is effectively a pact among a group of countries in which each promises to take concrete steps to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.

There are currently 66 countries participating. New Zealand is one.

Participating countries sign a declaration that acknowledges the importance of open government and commits them to:

  • Increase the availability of information about governmental activities;
  • Support civic participation;
  • Implement the highest standards of professional integrity throughout our administrations; and
  • Increase access to new technologies for openness and accountability.

Each country agrees to prepare an Action Plan that sets out concrete commitments to meet some or all of these goals. Action Plans are prepared in consultation with interested people and civil society groups. They are then assessed by the OGP’s “independent reporting mechanism” to see how well they have performed. Researchers are appointed in each country to help conduct this assessment, by gathering information, seeking public comment, and consulting stakeholders.

This page is part of that assessment process.

New Zealand’s Action Plan

New Zealand’s Action Plan for 2014-2016.

It is a little unusual compared with most other countries’ Action Plans. It does not list a set of specific projects or reforms. Rather, it embraces a series of government initiatives relevant to OGP goals that are already in process. The goals are broad ones, and the specific steps to achieve them are generally not described in detail, but are expected to evolve during the course of the implementation of the Action Plan. The government describes the Action Plan as “a living document”.

So New Zealand’s four OGP commitments are embodied in four initiatives:

  • The Better Public Services programme, and in particular, Result 10, which aims for New Zealanders to be able to complete their transactions with government easily in a digital environment. The government aims to have an average of 70 percent of New Zealanders’ most common transactions with government completed in a digital environment by 2017.
  • The Government ICT (information and communications technology) Strategy and Action Plan to 2017, and in particular, Action 13, which aims to make information assets “open by default”. The government says it will consult to develop a strategy to increase awareness of the availability of open data and progress the release of important data.
  • Consultation with Transparency International on the recommendations arising from its National Integrity System assessment report. The government says it will examine and respond to the recommendations.
  • The Kia Tutahi (Standing Together) Relationship Accord, a set of principles and expectations agreed between the government and community groups to work together to achieve social, economic and environmental outcomes. The government says it will hold discussions and gather evidence to try to improve government engagement practices.

There is much more information about these programmes in the links below.

The State Services Commission is heading the OGP process. It has set up a steering group made up of a range of stakeholders to oversee the development and implementation of the Action Plan. It is currently seeking public feedback on its plan.

Pass or fail?

Bringing existing initiatives into the Action Plan does not break the rules. Some stakeholders see these programmes as far-reaching, ambitious and potentially transformative. Some think our commitment aim higher than the piecemeal transparency projects adopted by many other countries. Others are more critical. They are sceptical that these initiatives will lead to real change. Some regard our Action Plan as vague and a missed opportunity to commit to specific new reforms, perhaps along the lines of those recently suggested by the Law Commission

What do you think?

About me

I am a barrister specialising in media law and an adjunct lecturer at the law school at Victoria University of Wellington. I have an honours degree in law from Victoria University of Welllington and a Master of Journalism degree from the University of California at Berkeley. I am the author of a text about media law called “Media Minefield” and I write a blog. I have conducted research on New Zealand’s Official Information Act. I occasionally comment on issues of media law and official information in the media.

Key links

New Zealand’s first OGP Action Plan

State Services Commission’s OGP information page

State Services Commission’s portal for feedback on the OGP

Information about the Stakeholder group

Terms of reference for the stakeholder group

OGP international website

OGP international website, New Zealand’s page

OGP International website, New Zealand’s timeline

Documents relevant to the initiatives in New Zealand’s Action Plan: