On 7 December 2016, Minister Paschal Donohoe, who is responsible for Public Expenditure and Reform, published a press release announcing the Open Government Partnership National Action Plan 2016–2018 for Ireland. This was in response to an initial consultation document, Open Government Ireland : Have your Say.
Ireland’s National Action Plan 2014–2016, which was published by Minister Brendan Howlin, also focused on increasing Irish citizens’ participation in making policy, increasing governance and accountability, and advancing the Government’s Open Data Strategy.
Minister Donohoe claims the overall purpose of this second National Action Plan 2016–2018 is to rebuild trust in government, improve public engagement in government policy and prevent corruption.
Specifically, the National Action Plan sets out commitments across four main themes:
- increased citizen engagement, to improve policies and services;
- increased transparency, so that citizens will better understand government activities and decisions;
- open data, for transparency and innovation; and
- anti-corruption, and strengthened governance and accountability, to ensure integrity in public life.
The Draft National Action Plan 2016–2018 also extends the original actions listed in the National Action Plan 2014–2016 into new areas:
- access to justice (Commitment 3)
- transparency of government service providers (Commitment 8)
- fiscal transparency (Commitment 9)
- document management (Commitment 10)
- governance standards for charities (Commitment 13)
- register of beneficial ownership (Commitment 15).
The collapse of Ireland’s banking system and the economic turbulence of 2008 has led to a decline in public trust in government and the democratic system.
The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a multilateral initiative launched in September 2011 by former US President Obama. Currently around 70 countries participate, including Ireland. The OGP aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. Ireland maintains a dedicated website on the OGP.
Description of target users and groups
In August 2016, the Irish Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) launched a process to consult the public and civil society groups in preparing Ireland’s Open Government Partnership National Action Plan 2016–2018. This process was designed after discussion with members of the Joint Working Group involved in Ireland’s first National Action Plan.
The initial consultation process for the Action Plan focused on two Facebook campaigns. One focused on Irish residents aged 18–25, and the other targeted citizens with an interest in politics and community. Other interested parties were contacted by e-mail and telephone.
The consultation document “Have Your Say – Creating a New National Action Plan 2016–2018” was then published online via Ireland’s OGP website consultation portal. This was supplemented by submissions via post and phone, in addition to two civic forums where all citizens were welcome to attend.
Description of the way to implement the initiative
After the first stage of consultation, CiviQ compiled citizen feedback and produced an independent report listing possible actions for Ireland’s Second National Action Plan. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform later published a draft of this National Action Plan.
The Irish Government will establish an Implementation Review Forum to allow people to see how their contributions are reflected in implementing the commitments in the National Action Plan 2016–2018. The first Review Forum will take place in April 2017.
Commitment 11 of the Second National Action Plan outlines an Open Data Strategy for 2017–2020.
Specifically this involves the Open Data Governance Board (ODGB) and a Public Bodies Working Group providing technical advice in support of Ireland’s Open Data Initiative.
The Department of Expenditure and Public Reform hopes to develop and implement the Open Data Strategy in order to increase the number of datasets available via Ireland’s Open Data Portal. A number of public bodies are taking part, and the Department plan to promote the Open Data Portal through blogs, newsletters and conferences.
Publication of data in the Open Portal is based on the requirements of the Open Data Technical Framework, which requires any information uploaded to be machine-readable, non-proprietary, and ideally using an open licence and standardised metadata.
Main results, benefits and impacts
The OECD has welcomed the launch of the Open Government Partnership as a way to promote open markets and increase inclusive wealth.
According to Ireland’s OGP website, greater access to information could improve risk management, economic performance and bureaucratic efficiency in governments.
The website also cites an EU Commission report on opening public sector information, which estimates an overall gain to the EU of over 40 billion Euros per year.
Specifically the Irish government hope for growth in three main areas:
- business innovation – through wider sharing of scientific papers and data, making it easier to build on the findings of public research;
- business creation – through creating a new market for public service information; and
- business efficiency – through providing businesses and public bodies with open data that allows them to better understand customers’ needs.