The Open Government Partnership (OGP) has created a webpage collating government approaches responding to COVID-19. The open government community is focused on applying the principles of transparency, accountability and participation to the COVID-19 response. The webpage contains a crowd sourced list from a wide range of countries with a variety of initiatives, including: the release of theoretical models and data underpinning governments’ strategies; digital platforms and apps to keep citizens informed; and efforts tackling misinformation and disinformation online.
The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from national and local governments to promote open government, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.
Formed in 2011, its members now include governments from across 78 countries and thousands of civil society groups, representing more than 2 billion people worldwide.
Open government strives to provide transparency and accountability to the public, for actions or decisions made by government, and to enable citizen participation in decisions that affect individuals or communities. It’s easy to see the role of high quality data and reliable, accessible information in delivering open government.
There are many ways information governance supports openness. The two most relevant OGP policy areas are:
- Digital governance
Government use of evolving technologies, such as artificial intelligence, data-driven algorithms, and social networks; and developing policies to deal with the threats, including disinformation, discrimination, and privacy concerns.
- Right to information
Implementing laws that enable fair access to government information and proactive release of high value information; and platforms that enable citizens to use information to shape policies, services and budgets.
As countries face unprecedented challenges from COVID-19, the role of open government, open data and data sharing is critically important.
“It is in moments of disaster response and relief that the values of open government can come under intense pressure, but can also meaningfully contribute to better outcomes.” – OGP
The Australian Government recently released modelling of how COVID-19 could spread through the Australian population under different scenarios. The modelling is based on international data because Australia does not yet have enough cases to provide mathematically reliable figures.
These data models are designed to assess preparedness and assist with planning, not to make predictions. Governance of the underlying data, particularly its provenance and characteristics of the data’s quality, is vital because the data underpin such significant decisions.
Through its open data portal, the NSW Government has published a number of COVID-19 datasets, including cases by location, age range and likely source of infection. Prior to release, the dataset was assessed to measure the risk of identifying an individual. It was then treated to mitigate these risks and information about the type of treatment (suppression and aggregation) is published alongside the dataset.
Making this data and information accessible is in the public interest. It facilitates public debate, analysis of options and participation in decision making processes. This can build community support and conformance with protective measures. It could also lead to innovative responses and better outcomes.
Contextualising the data and providing information about how it has been interpreted is essential, enabling people to understand the analysis and potentially use the data themselves.
Another example is the UK NHS data sharing platform which will provide national organisations coordinating the pandemic response with a single source of reliable information, needed to support decision-making, in a way that protects the privacy of citizens. The NHS is transparent about the ways the data will be used and the governance controls that are being applied, including retention policies and their aim to make the code and data open source wherever possible whilst ensuring the highest standards of confidentiality
The OGP has created a space to share best open government practices in managing the pandemic, such as:
- Ensuring vulnerable communities have the information they need
- Transparency over forecasting models and data that are influencing government decisions and strategies
- Digital platforms or apps to keep citizens informed, enable public participation and/or offer open data; Digital tools to enable public participation.
- Protecting data rights and privacy as corporations help lead the response in many countries.
- Tackling misinformation and disinformation online.
- Publishing proactive information for affected communities, including economic and social support.
As we move further into the digital age, there is increasing public demand for openness and improving the use of information to strengthen corporate governance across all sectors.
Open data experts, Link Digital, have highlighted increased publication of data related to the pandemic, both in the Open Government and Open Research sectors.
They’ve provided a summary of COVID-19 datasets and open data related articles, noting: “There is a rapidly emerging, global recognition that openness and collaboration are needed at this time.”