Last month I attended the open government partnership in Mombasa. OGP is a multi-stakeholder initiative through which governments make concrete commitments to: promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. For more information about what OGP is check out this post What is the open government partnership?
Here are snippets from the first session.
Bitange Ndemo talked about how open government partnership is a chance for countries to have a genuine sharing of experiences.
The Deputy Governor of Mombasa Deputy Governor Hazel Katana said that we have to get out of the culture of blaming national government and not talking responsibly. That is the reason that devolution has happened so that people can take responsibility for their counties. We need to move away from the culture of excuses. It is important for citizens to have access to information and for the citizens to be engaged in the process of development.
Civil Society – Gladwell Otieno talked about how AFRICOG was part of the process of OGP coming to Kenya and being accepted. According to her civil society has always got a place at the table on issues of governance. Gladwell said that we must leverage technology to facilitate governance.
Dr. Fred Matiangi, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of ICT talked about the government commitment to OGP. He talked about issues like wealth declarations of public officials are not just a forum for empty promises. He said that OGP does not impose priorities on countries the countries chose the priorities they want to focus on. He talked about the Kenya open date portal and how this will encourage transparency and open doors for dialogue. He also said that access to information is a hindrance in dealing with civil society.
Dr. Matiangi was categorical that there is commitment and political will to carry out the freedom of information act. He said there are challenges on making data more concrete for some groups of people. People use data to do different things so it is easier to give out raw data then the person can use it to do what they want with it.
Ayanda Dlodlo, the South African Deputy Minister of Public Service and Administration talked about African having a hope and a vision. Looking at the AU celebrations that had just passed and how unity and integration between African countries had grown. Ayanda said that there was generally good governance in African countries, rule of law, citizen participation and efficiently. AU has restored people’s confidence in government. AU is driving transformation in Africa. AU is holding countries accountable for elections and intervening where there is trouble. She gave the example of the eminent persons sent to mediate in the Kenyan situation in 2008.
I can’t remember who said this I think it is Gladwell Otieno but somebody talked about how civil society should have freedom, and change the colonial paradigm. Civil society should partner with government instead of always fighting with government. One of the issues that worries governments is about the lack of transparency about who funds some of civil society. The civil society should be accountable and transparency. It is time for the contextual war of civil society against government to stop. The new approach should be complimentary and not contradictory. The benefits of OGP are that there will be a strengthened civil society/government partnership and a feedback loop between them.
We have a continent of young internet users. 50 million youth on Facebook. The two greatest things about open government are accountability and transparency.Matiangi said that political will is important and the president is demanding that there is good governance. He said their responsibly is to find a way to actualize it.
Challenges of OGP for Kenya according to Dr. Matiangi
1. Working on a conceptual framework. What does OGP mean for Kenya? What is the consensus on how to do it? Improving public services is a priority. It is not a responsibly of government alone, government and citizens must work together. There must be constructive dialogue to equip and educate Kenyans on what they can do. There must be constructive conversations about leadership. It is important for the public to know that they too have a role.
2. Improving public integrity. The integrity of government is not a concern of government alone. The people must be involved and have integrity as well. He talked about how the quality of information being given to the public mattering but what public does with the information is more important. He asked are people aware of what to do with the information available?
3. Recognizing the rights of citizens. The need for citizen information centers to educate citizens on issues and their rights.
4. Efficient use of public resources. These resources belong to all of us. We are partners with the government.
Dr. Matiangi continued to say that OGP cannot be driven by government alone. This is something to do in collaboration with civil society and other stakeholders. Substantive engagement with civil society is necessary. Public participation in legislation is important. Civil society needs to be partners in growth of the country and not just involved in obstructive political engagement. The relationship with civil society needs to be deep, substantive, and respective. There is a need for civil society to build not always criticize or be critical of the government, always combative. There should be an equal citizen responsibly to move the country forward.
Matiangi said that civil society and government should work together on legislation. He said that the civil society should not always first go to the streets but come first to the boardroom to dialogue. “We need to do things that are good for Africa. This is the only place we have under the sun and we need to work together. Our time to work together constructively, and have substantive engagement”
For more on what Matiangi said check out this post ICT cabinet secretary “very optimistic” on open data.