Open Government practitioners love to speak of “the citizen”. But who are exactly those people? Too often, we asume that we know who they are and what they want. Engaging with them and exploring what they care about is a time-consuming process, thus we are builders, makers and creators with an insufficient knowledge who we are building and creating for. According to Jamie LaRue, the central irony of open government is that it’s often not open at all.
“Enabling Open Government for All: A Roadmap for Public Libraries”
Theresa A. Pardo
Director of the Center for Technology in Government at the University at Albany
State University of New York
All #CeDEM15 Keynotes
- “Wazing the Information Super Highway: Linking the World’s Open Data Resources” – Alon Peled
- “International Challenges to Transformational eGovernment” – Shauneen Furlong
- “Enabling Open Government for All: A Roadmap for Public Libraries” – Theresa A. Pardo
- “Experience-based Design in Open Government” – Marijn Janssen
Often the conversations on open government are dominated by those with the means to participate (personal remark. somehow, this paradox always reminds me of the “Subaltern” of Spivak, a postcolonial theory… also claiming that those in power are actually not able to talk, or rather: speak). The practical result is that those with power, privilege and access are tinkering for solutions while large citizen segments remain uninvolved.
The execution of Obama’s Open Government Directive turned out to be an open data more than a political transparency mandate, and Prime Minister Cameron was keen on creating a certain identity. Lots of projects that made data more available to people were implemented, and in the open government conversation, increasingly questions around data literacy and the effects and limits of citizens using and interpreting data became important. The capability gap is increasingly becoming important, and while open government and particularly open data initatives are seen as a step forward for transparency, they are, at this state, not very useful for the average citizen. For building new capability, the idea of a community information ecosystem can be a useful concept, as can be drawing on community institutions like public libraries – a concept that is much stronger in the US than in Europe.
In its current state, US Open Government initatives are focused on providing more and varied data to the public. Public libraries found themselves in a support role of e-government. They know a lot, f.i., about their communities and their skills. However, the impact of Open Government on libraries has yet to be studied, and the support for civic engagement should, for instance, also move into job descriptions. The role of public libraries in open government, and projects all over the world are applying critical roles to libraries, is to help ensure that all community members regardless of origin, age, background, economic circumstances or views have the opportunity and capabilities to take part. The role of public libraries is thus shifting, and now it’s the time to formalise the informal role they are already playing in open government.
‘7 Questions’ to Keynote Speaker Theresa A. Pardo @CeDEM15