The tool is designed for citizens to examine the openness of public administration and other public bodies. In the same time it can help managers and politicians in evaluating their work towards the better openness giving them citizens’ point of view. It is especially important because in this moment we can see a gap in looking at the issue not from e-gov (measuring efficiency) nor from simple open data perspective, but taking into account citizens’ needs and expectations.
The index was created within the framework of the Regional network ACTION SEE, which is a Western Balkans citizens organizations’ initiative, established by CA Why not from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Metamorphosis Foundation from Macedonia, Center for Democratic Transition from Montenegro and Center for Research Transparency Accountability (CRTA) from Serbia. The founding members of the Regional network are organizations that use ICT in their work on promoting democracy and have implemented several activities of different scale in the past two years since this cooperation exists. Those experiences and active participation in the global open government movement are the reasons the network decided to work on the open government in the Western Balkans region in a more coordinated way.
The situation in the region regarding the openness of the government differs from country to country. Nowadays one of the important factors is if the given country is a member of the Open Government Partnership. In the region Albania, Croatia, Macedonian, Montenegro and Serbia are members, while Bosnia and Herzegovina joined in September 2014 and is at the beginning of its way. OGP, although very important, is mostly focused on national policy making and its implementation. That is why this index will deal with all the levels and all the public bodies, including also governments’ own actions towards openness, which in practice are less connected to citizens and more focused on effectiveness of the inner process.
That is why, but also because of common problems in the region the network decided to join forces and work on the regional standard for measuring openness of public institutions making it as broad as possible, but always paying attention on how a certain issue affects citizens and if it makes their quality of life better.
The network’s open government program will not only include of the index, but it will combine joined country and regional level actions, as well as more global advocacy. The standard will be first step to the open government roadmap for the countries, where one of the partners is based and it will be an independent benchmark for governments. Once the index will be ready, roadmaps will be created with wider audiences of experts and other stakeholders.
For the matters of this index the “open government” concerns all the levels of the public authorities and administration. Hence the index is designed accordingly, and covers all types of power and their agencies. In order to be nationally relevant each country’s roadmap will require a description of the legal system. Each country leaders will agree on the institution to be evaluated in the first place, as they should be the most relevant for citizens.
This standard can be used for external evaluation (e.g. for independent organizations monitoring or by journalists) or it can be also applied in the internal self-assessment conducted by management of the institutions of any level. Some parts of the index are very specific and can be used directly to improve the performance of the institution or even its department, while some are more general and will require more consideration and auto-reflection on the given topic. In those cases we encourage to involve more, not only internal stakeholders, in the process of change.
The inspiration for the final version of the standard among all camed from the Open Government Declaration (2011), the Open Government Directive of President’s Obama Administration (2009), the OECD’s publication: How and Why Should Government Activity Be Measured in ‘Government at a Glance’? (2006), O’Reilly Media publication: Open Government; Collaboration, Transparency, and Participation in Practice (2010) and Global Integrity’s Working Definition of Open Government (2012) and finally from Poland Roadmap for Open Government in Poland by Digital Center Project Polska (2011).
The specific indicators were described using the approach from different organizations and there was few with significant influence: Open Government Beyond Static Measures by Involve for OECD, Open Government Standards, Open Knowledge Foundation Open Data Index, Open Budget Survey, Right To Information Rating, Global Integrity Report, World Bank’s Public Accountability Mechanism, Open Parliament Declaration and Lobbying Transparency via Right to Information Laws. Two most significant documents were Durbin, a project which address key challenges of democratization in the region and was implemented in 2013 by the members of the Regional network, and Transparency International Slovakia’s Open Self Government: Regions 2013 is a transparency survey of the Slovak self-governing regions, which was very helpful regarding the index for local self-governments.