NDItech @ OGP Summit 2015

By Jared Ford | November 06, 2015

Large Photo
Diego Rivera Mural at Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City.
Diego Rivera's "Man, Controller of the Universe" a meditation on technology and ideology, at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City.

We’ve discussed the impressive Open Government Partnership a lot on this blog, among them here and here. They held their Global Summit from October 27-29 with NDI in strong attendance.  

OGP is an international organization, (also a community and platform) which seeks strong commitments through “National Action Plans” from participating government institutions to promote transparency, increase civic participation, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to make government more open, effective, and accountable.

This mechanism has been important to several of NDI’s advocacy and norms-building initiatives, chief among them increasing parliamentary openness and standardizing election data approaches.

NDI with the Congress of Chile has led the Legislative Openness Working Group with the intention of deepening the exchange of knowledge across parliaments and civil society on the opportunities and challenges associated with opening the legislative process.  At the Summit, NDI managed several events, including discussion on specifical action plans for Open Parliament, recent developments in engaging legislatures more deeply in OGP, strengthening civil society and parliamentary networks, and improving the Open Parliament community’s collaboration around technology, where NDItech’s DemTools project was discussed as a model for civil society and parliamentary staff sharing and creating technological solutions for parliaments to advance openness and accountability.

NDI’s “Open Election Data Initiative” organized a panel discussion with NDI, Google, South Africa and Mexico election commissions, and a citizen election observation leader, to bring attention to the importance of detailed election data, see the Elections DemTool and it’s contribution to illuminating an election process. As legislative openness has become increasingly institutionalized within OGP, NDI hopes that election transparency can make similar gains.

Beyond NDI’s ability to support legislative plan-making, and improve election data transparency, we came away with three key takeaways:

1) Opportunites with sub-national units

The summit recognized that there are many opportunities to engage subnational governments, cities and municipalities more actively in the OGP.  Participants emphasized that engaging this tier of governments and civil society organizations will highlight open government innovations at the local level, create opportunities for mutual learning, and help local governments run more efficiently and openly. This new approach also mirrors NDI’s interest in democratic governance in urban areas.

2) OGP and the SDGs

OGP provides a valuable platform to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with its foundation on principles of transparency, accountability, and citizen participation.  With tools such as the National Action Plans and a growing global community of governments and civil society, OGP is well positioned to lead on the monitoring and measurement of the SDGs.

3) Evaluation mechanisms matter

The Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM), a key means by which all stakeholders can track OGP progress in participating countries, is here to stay.  Furthermore, this summit emphasized how civil society can make strategic use of the findings of the IRM for advocacy purposes.

NDI considers itself a “do” tank, over a traditional think tank, and is a good match with OGP, which continues to empower “doers” – government reformers who share practical ideas and innovations. NDItech will continue to share these same goals of strengthening and improving how governments engage with their own citizens, as we seek to improve the impact of technology-enabled programs.