Jordi Foz Dalmau. Secretary for Transparency and Open Government. Autonomous Government of Catalonia.
Catalonia is committed to promoting and consolidating open government and to the continual improvement of democratic quality in the country. Open government is a way of conceiving the relationship between citizens and government, based on open public information, citizen deliberation, usage of collective intelligence and co-creation of public policy. On 25 April 2017, the Government approved the 2016-2017 Open Government Plan, which combines all the public policies promoted by the Autonomous Government of Catalonia in these areas.
An open government, a government that belongs to the citizens, may seem like a new challenge but if we look closely we’ll see that it’s actually an old concept. “Citizens”, “deliberation”, “involvement” are some of the words that come to mind when we talk about the new politics, but these words have existed for a long time and are connected to the republican concept of politics. It’s challenge that has existed for a long time and that we’ll have to take on gradually because it requires adapting concepts and work habits, a cultural change in our institutions and going from power in the hands of just a few who concentrate all the information to a more horizontal power where information is shared. It’s a necessary challenge if we’re going to work towards a republic government model in which citizens are the main players.
We won’t be able to face this challenge if we don’t understand that Open Government involves jointly promoting a set of policies with perseverance. This is why it was necessary to have an Open Government Plan that included the following policies:
- Transparency: to make the work of public bodies transparent whilst giving citizens access to information if they wish. And not only that, but also publishing information on transparency portals in a way that is understandable.
- Citizen involvement: it aims to achieve citizen deliberation in order to make the most of the potential of collective intelligence when making decisions and controlling and assessing them. There is so much more information and knowledge outside the government and a hierarchical view of power wastes this opportunity.
- Open data: it means making data owned by the government available on open formats so that citizens can reuse it freely.
- And lastly, partnership between the government and civil society: projects that are shared with civil society, to ensure that citizens are involved not only in making but also in carrying out public policy and in the management of equipment and public services.
It’s a challenge that requires perseverance but that is definitely worth it: to give back citizens the power and ability to decide and to collectively build up society following the best republican tradition. It’s a challenge that will enable us to govern in a more participative and democratic way, and to make better decisions thanks to collective intelligence and open and shared knowledge.