“E-participation to promote participatory decision-making and service delivery”, 2016 UN E-Government Survey

E-participation is expanding all over the world. With growing access to social media, an increasing number of countries now proactively use networking opportunities to engage with people and evolve towards participatory decision-making. This is done through open data, online consultations and multiple ICT-related channels. While developed countries, especially European countries, are among the top 50 performers, many developing countries are making good progress as well; especially lower-middle income countries. In general, a country’s lower income level is not an obstacle to posting basic public sector information online on national portals or using social media and other innovative means for consulting and engaging people on a broad range of development-related issues. Yet, a country’s income level matters when it comes to developing more technically complex and specialized e-participation portals, such as for e-petitioning or online consultation and deliberation. Low income countries need to be supported in addressing such challenges.

A growing number of e-participation applications and tools are put in place in various sectors with the objective of responding to the needs of various communities. This can contribute to the development of new forms of collaborative partnerships between government bodies and people and reinforces the focus on people’s needs. The largest share of these initiatives relates to the central government and local authorities giving access to public sector information and public consultation via e-tools. But there has been a growing focus on mobilizing contributions to policy-making, even though progress has been modest so far. Making progress in participatory and democratic decision-making will increasingly be the criteria against which the success of e-participation will be assessed.

Advances in e-participation today are driven more by civic activism of people seeking to have more control over their lives, rather than by the availability of financial resources or expensive technologies. Several developing countries, including some least developed countries, generate numerous good practices by using low-cost (open code source) ready-made solutions that are based on collaboration among citizens.

 

Overall, enhanced e-participation and the related social practices can support the realization of the SDGs by enabling countries to ensure that their policy decisions are more participatory. This will increase the ownershipof policies by civil society and the momentum for implementation. More analysis is needed to understand whether and how e-participation impacts on the content of policies and focus of decisions ultimately made.

Read more about “Engaging People through E-Participation” at: http://workspace.unpan.org/sites/Internet/Documents/UNPAN96407.pdf

Transparency through Open Government Data, 2016 UN E-Goverment Survey

In an effort to make public institutions more inclusive, effective, accountable and transparent, as called for in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, many governments across the globe are opening up their data for public information and scrutiny. Making data available online for free also allows the public – and various civil society organizations –to reuse and remix them for any purpose. This can potentially lead to innovation and new or improved services, new understanding and ideas. It can also raise awareness of governments’ actions to realize all the SDGs, thus allowing people to keep track and contribute to those efforts.

Overall, in 2016, 128 out of 193 UN Member States provide datasets on government spending in machine readable formats. The remaining 65 have no such information online.

The availability and use of Open Government Data initiatives, however, vary around the world; not only in terms of the number of datasets released and how they are presented and organized, but also in terms of the tools provided to increase usage of data.

Combining transparency of information with Big Data analytics has a growing potential. It can help track service delivery and lead to gains in efficiency. It can also provide governments with the necessary tools to focus on prevention rather than reaction, notably in the area of disaster risk management.

The issue that many governments are tackling today is not whether to open up their data, but how to do so. Proper governance and careful consideration of both opportunities and

challenges are needed. Challenges include issues related to legal frameworks, policies and principles; data management and protection; identity management and privacy; as well as cyber security. Regarding legal aspects, 105 UN Member States have legislation on the right to access government information. The same number also offer online policies on open government data and 113 countries offer online personal data protection legislation (Data Protection Acts or equivalent).

Innovative demand-driven approaches have been taken to enhance people’s ability to request governments to open up data. Multiple approaches and tools can be used to increase open government data usage. These include campaigns to raise awareness of how open government data can help achieve the SDGs and empower people with new tools.

In the future, steps should be taken to increase the publication of Open Government Data related to vulnerable groups. Ways should also be found to ensure that such data truly contribute to improving the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable. For example, data about location of health services and water points near slums or disadvantaged areas can help improve communities’ access to essential social and economic resources. Support can also be provided to help relevant non-governmental organizations to analyze and use open Open Data for improving the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable.

Publishing open data online can help to ensure higher degrees of accountability and transparency not only of national governments, but also of parliaments and of the judiciary, which will play an important role in the achievement of the SDGs.

Read more about “Transparency through Open Government Data” at: http://workspace.unpan.org/sites/Internet/Documents/UNPAN96407.pdf