Marc Garriga (@mgarrigap) graduated in Computer Engineering from UPC (Polytechnic University of Catalonia) and in Market Research and Techniques from UOC (Open University of Catalonia). Being an expert on Open Data and, more generally, in open government, he has taken part in various initiatives in each field. By mid-2012, he set up desideDatum Data Company, a company focused on offering services related to management and data opening such as consulting the Generalitat de Catalunya (on the creation of the Catalonia Transparency Portal, which will host more than a thousand public entities), among many other projects related to open data, open government and Smart Cities.
He is a pro-public sector, pro-transparency, pro-open government and pro-Network Society activist; among others, he is founding member of the Spanish Chapter on the Open Knowledge Foundation Network (OKFN-Spain), of Xarxa d’Innovació Pública (XiP), of the group Catalunya Dades, and he is a node atTheProject (THP).
For the European experts in open data and open government, it’s been an honor for the Old Continent to have the opportunity of hosting just within two months the two main international events in the matter: IODC and OGP.
At the beginning of October we had in Spain for the first time (and also for the first time in Europe) the foremost international event related with open data: IODC. This consisted in two very intense days adding the rest of the week with numerous associated pre-events. Also, at the beginning of December, the Open Government Partnership international congress took place in Paris, France, also Europe.
That means that within two months Europe has hosted the main events for the opening of the public sector; once again in Europe -withot prejudice to the rest of the world- is where the opening and innovation in public administration leads. Both congresses convened the main international experts on said fields (open data at IODC and open government at OGP). Given the tight relationship between both concepts, obviously we were many the ones who attended both events.
As usual, both conferences ended up with their corresponding conclusions. One stands out above the others, and even though maybe IODC has a more technical approach and the OGP has a more political one, this conclusion was common in both events (as it is supposed to be): the need for demonstrating the IMPACT (in capital letters) that open data and government generates in our society.
In other words, we experts have explained for a long time that the new form of governing has to involve opening our public administrations to society, to its actors (citizens, private sectors, organizations in general, etc.). This means that these actors must stop having such a passive role to become absolutely active in the public activities, from their design to their provision.
The opening of our public administrations is what was put to debate in Paris, and the bases on which this opening is supported is open data, discussed in Madrid.
However, although the number of administrations that are opening to the public is growing -in Spain, Europe or any other part of the planet-, what’s true is that the impact presumably derived from open government data has not reached the citizens yet.
No one discusses that having open governments is beneficial for society, but to what extent? How can we measure that impact? What good examples -I mean groundbreaking examples- do we have that show clearly that the opening is positive for our society?
Each day we have more and more people, more governments and more countries that favor the opening of their public institutions (we should remind ourselves that three years ago France wasn’t part of the OGP and, three years after, has celebrated the most important congress of this partnership). This entails that there are less doubts related witht the fact that opening is the way to follow; there are many reasons, beginning by the, if I may, ethical reasons: all that’s public should be at any citizen’s reach (except for limited exceptions).
However, it we don’t show a REAL impact of opening we can fall in short time within an Openness Bubble. In other words, we are advocating for opening without being able to clearly show why this is really the key towards the necessary change of paradigm of the public sector. We urgently need to show that policies favoring public institution opening are beneficial and besides we need to quantify that they are on a certain magnitude, according to the indicators we believe most appropriate (this was another common conclusion in both congresses: the need for metrics that help us see quantitatively how our open data initiatives develop).
Only like this we can keep organizing congresses (in Europe or wherever else) favoring open data and, most importantly, this is the only way we can convince the most sceptical that opening is the path to follow in order to achieve achieve the best management of our public institutions and the best governance over us all as citizens.