Governments should listen to society in order to connect to and be part of an increasingly open world. Open data and citizen participation, rather than organisations and processes, are now the starting point for creating a government that is in close contact with society, knows what is going on, and defines problems and finds solutions in collaboration with society. So say three Dutch public servants in an article just published on Platform Overheid (Platform Government).
When they say "listen to society", the three refer not only to the citizens' voices but also to information, i.e. open data, that speaks for society.
The pulse of society can be heard louder and louder, because we produce ever more data, says Mikis de Winter.
This allows governments to ask more specific questions, or in some cases even draw conclusions from data that is readily available.
According to Paul Suijkerbuijk, open data makes the information position of government and citizens more equal.
This turns around the traditional policy-making process of researching and subsequently producing a report. Now people can actually see the data that is underlying the report and form their own opinions.
Government no longer necessarily has to take the leading role, says Eric de Kruik.
Government will now define a common problem and a plan in collaboration with stakeholders and based on data from various sources. And sometimes government does not even do that; it leaves the problem and the plan to the stakeholders, thereby becoming a mere participant in the process.
The three recognise that this new approach requires governments to move themselves into a vulnerable position. They have to let go of rigid processes and their always being right. At the same time, moving in this direction allows governments to acquire a way of operating that is already successfully being used on a daily basis by businesses and civil society.