Spain is a world leader in Open Data. Says who?
13 November 2012 – In September 2012 the Web Foundation published the first edition of its Open Data Index, “a specific set of 14 indicators directly targeted at measuring open data worldwide”. Many open data and transparency activists in Spain were surprised to find Spain in the leading pack, since Spain still doesn't have an access to information law and there is no coherent national Open Data policy or practice. The only actively maintained Open Data initiatives are those started by a few local and regional governments, with no coordination or support from the national level. More importantly, key datasets about health, education, public procurement or official agendas are still being withheld by the administration,with no plan to release them.
When asked for an explanation and rationale for these results, the Web Foundation responded that these results are "based on perception". In particular, in the perception of one person in Spain, who asked not to be identified, and about whom we know nothing.
We have been told that the questions measure “availability”, not “openness”. If so, the name of the Open Data Index is seriously misleading. When the Spanish government was asked in March 2012 by member of parliament Alberto Garzon to release the national budget in machine-readable format, the official government response said "transparency is about the extent of the information provided, not about formal aspects of presentation". In spite of this, and of the fact budget execution (spending) data has little detail, procurement data is fragmented across many sources - most often in non-reusable formats -, and of the fact citizens have no access whatsoever to actual invoices, Spain gets a score of 8/10 on spending data (see question Q23b).
Access Info Europe is leading a new campaign to create Open Government Standards and promote them around the world. The idea is to set standards on what open, transparent, accountable and participatory government really means.
Open Government is a hot topic right now, but what does it really mean in practice? What should governments be doing in the areas of Transparency, Participation and Accountability to qualify as “open governments”? What are the uses of new communications technologies which really advance openness as opposed to merely perpetuating existing bureaucratic practices in a digital environment?
Over the next few months, we aim to answer those questions, drawing together all the standards already developed by civil society into a coherent structure around the emerging concept of open government.
Our aim is to reach an agreement on the basic elements of what constitutes open government so that we can call on our governments to meet this standard. The Open Government Standards will be designed for all countries, with a particular relevance for members of the Open Government Partnership.
We will also identify the actions that governments should take in order to make real progress in promoting the three core pillars of open government:
Transparency, accountability, and participation.
Unfair business practices supported by government secrecy new report warns
Open Government Partnership countries score badly on promoting corporate transparency
London/Brasilia, 17 April 2012 - Private corporations around the world are benefitting from undue levels of secrecy around company registers making it impossible for the public to know how businesses are structured and who really owns them, according to a new report released today by the organisation OpenCorporates.
OpenCorporates’ report, “The Closed World of Company Data” finds that of 55 countries surveyed, the average score for public access to the company register is just 21 out of 100 points. The UK scored highest by a long way with 70 points out of 100, followed by the Czech Republic with 50 points, with the Slovak Republic and Albania (45 points each) also giving good public access to companies registers.
The United States scored badly with just 33 points and several of the world’s most important economies scored 0 points – notably Spain, Greece and Brazil. What this means in practice for members of the public is that even basic company data is not available without registering and often paying a fee to access even a single company record.
Open Government Partnership Transparency Policy Needs Significant Improvement
25 November 2011, Madrid/Halifax – The Open Government Partnership , a global transparency initiative jointly sponsored by US President Obama and Brazilian President Rousseff, must significantly improve its internal access to information policy to meet the standards it is advancing according to an analysis launched today by two specialist organisations, Access Info Europe and the Centre for Law and Democracy.
Two months after its launch in September 2011 when 46 countries pledged to work towards greater openness, the OGP is struggling with its own transparency rules according to the expert analysis submitted as part of a one-month public consultation that ends today.
"The Open Government Partnership risks missing the opportunity to set high standards which can serve as a model for all the participating countries," commented Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe. "The policy should be reformed to incorporate basic open data principles such as that information will be made available in a machine-readable, electronic format free of restrictions on reuse."
Open Government Partnership should mark end to “transparency hypocrisy”
20 September 2011: With 46 countries gathering in New York today to launch the Open Government Partnership, Access Info Europe warned that the promises being made must be carefully monitored to prevent participating governments from using the process to give a false impression of their transparency credentials.
“This initiative has the potential to promote higher standards of openness, in particular in the area of proactive publication of information, but care must be taken to ensure that it does not become a window-dressing exercise,” said Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe.
The danger of “transparency hypocrisy” is very real: at the same time as participating as a leading member of the OGP, the UK government is engaged in litigation against Access Info Europe to block access to documents about reform of the EU’s own access to documents rules.