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Open up your data, build your reputation

Observations from Prague, Czech Republic:

Understanding the meaning and consequences of being transparent in government is the first step public sector organisations must take toward building a solid and productive relationship with citizens – one that is based on trust and openness.

In terms of governments being open with the public, Western democracies have had a different starting point to the post-communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) – which are only two and a half decades on since their transition to a democratic form of governance. Consequently, these countries, including the Czech Republic – where I’m writing this post – are still learning precisely why their governments must open themselves up to the public. They’re starting to explore the benefits of being more transparent, and this concept includes opening up the data they hold.

The front runners of the open data movement in Central and Eastern Europe 

Releasing sensitive pieces of information to the general public can be a double-edged sword. Too many central and local government officers in the CEE region still do not feel comfortable or think it’s safe to share data relating to their organisation’s finances or other matters which may open up wider debate or scrutiny. Stepping out of the traditional comfort zone and publishing data in an open manner – making it easily understood and useful to others – is a big step, all the more so when such an activity exceeds officers’ minimum obligations and job duties.

It’s encouraging to see that a growing community of progressive government employees and active NGO representatives has started to have a louder voice over the past few years. For instance, the Czech Republic’s branch office of the Open Society Foundations, a global NGO network striving for open governance, has built a dedicated team focusing on open data and its promotion across governments. Both the Czech Republic Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Finance are among the front runners of this movement. They have begun developing projects which promote higher transparency of their services – reflected in their positive PR coverage too. This willingness to be more frank and open with citizens will undoubtedly affect the institutions’ reputation – the approach can instil trust and ensures citizens feel included and informed about how their country is being run.

Czech Republic Ministry of Finance shares its expenditure visually via Supervizor app

For example, a small team at the Ministry of Finance for the Czech Republic has developed a tool called Supervizor. Its mission statement relates to two main goals: first, to proactively publish details of ministry operations and finances; and secondly, to demonstrate the purpose of publishing data in open formats.

Budget transparency

Image source

This visually compelling and easy-to-understand microsite is linked to the ministry’s DKAN-based open data catalogue. The app won first prize in the national competition of open data projects, and the innovative team has also decided to place the whole code of the app on GitHub, which has prompted other government institutions to follow suit.

Pioneering the future of government with DKAN open data

Like UK government organisations (and others in countries where democracy and citizen involvement have been longer established in society), more and more governments in the CEE will start to use technologies which help to transform the public sector, putting citizens at the heart of service design and delivery. GovDelivery’s Open Data is already connecting millions of citizens around the world to data that is of real use to their daily lives. GovDelivery is helping governments be transparent and present their data in user-friendly and clever ways.

Want to start building more meaningful relationships with citizens? Interested in joining the open data “revolution”? Get in touch today to find out how your organisation and citizens could benefit from opening up more data.

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Check out some more resources on GovDelivery Data and why you should choose DKAN:

Follow Stepan Soukenik on Twitter for more updates on open data and government communications.