Miquel Estapé Valls. Deputy Director – Strategy and innovation. AOC Consortium.

The Consorcio Administración Abierta de Cataluña (AOC) [Catalonia Consortium for Open Administration] coordinated the introduction of the services to comply with local administration transparency laws in Catalonia. Resulting in 95% currently possessing a transparency portal.

The initiative was born of the agreement by the Red de Gobiernos Locales Transparentes [Network of Transparent Local Governments] signed by the Generalitat [Regional Government of Catalonia], the provincial councils, municipal associations and the AOC, in collaboration with COSITAL and Localret. The project covers 1,000 local administrations.

The implemented transparency service model is based on the following principles and criteria:

1. Collaboration. The project includes participation from an interdisciplinary team from different institutions, comprised of lawyers, technicians, secretaries, archivists, auditors, technologists, etc. with the objective of combining knowledge and preparatory work, to produce the best joint project.

2. Integration of electronic head office, transparency portal and open data platform. The service integrates all of these concepts into a single portal because they are interrelated and cannot be disassociated. It would be a mistake to create different sections, as they confuse citizens and triplicate the information, and content management tasks.

3. Open data by default. The law on the reuse of information states that administrations have the obligation to provide citizens with public information in the form of open, reusable and interoperable data. International transparency studies indicate that governments with the most open data are less corrupt: we therefore promote the publication of information by default, in the form of open data.

4. Standardisation of transparency items. An inventory has been conducted of 130 active advertising transparency items, which are standardised and have a clear, pragmatic interpretation, and use a common data model.

5. Local institutions need only undertake the tasks once. One of the most annoying tasks for councils is the need to submit enormous amounts of information to supra-municipal administrations, and having to repeat the process several times for different bodies that make no effort to coordinate amongst themselves. Out of the 130 identified transparency items, half are available at supra-municipal institutions in a consolidated form for the whole of Catalonia. AOC has undertaken to obtain this information, standardise it and publish it periodically and automatically in the form of open data via the transparency services at each local entity. This will save €1.5M per year.

6. Customisation for different user profiles. We designed the service based on the existence of different user profiles, with different needs:

  • Average citizen: needs information that is easy to understand and in a visual and graphic format.
  • Data analyst: requires data in an open format to enable data analysis.
  • Programmer: an advanced user, with business knowledge, and an interest in developing an application to connect with the open data in real-time .

7. Comprehensive and turnkey solution. The service provides a cloud technology solution and also a legal advice guide, descriptive files for each item, standardised document models and comprehensive support: organisational, juridical, functional and technological.

Resulting in 95% of local administrations in Catalonia currently providing a transparency portal, rated very highly by the majority of public employees (8 out of 10). This is a very positive first step, but we are very aware of the fact that the establishment of a culture of transparency, open government, publication of quality information, accountability, citizen participation, etc. is a much more ambitious and long-term project, and that we are just getting started.

When the transparency laws were approved, thereby creating a significant burden of additional obligations, without additional funding, local authorities felt very uneasy. The model that we have implemented in Catalonia ensures a reasonable, simple and sustainable solution using existing resources. And at the same time constitutes a very useful tool for keeping citizens better informed, so they can make more informed political decisions and thereby advance towards a higher quality of democracy.