TCampEU: ‘I’ve got some good news for you’

Some remarks on TransparencyCamp Europe

In 2014, when some of us returned back from TransparencyCamp in Washington DC organised by our friends at Sunlight Foundation, we wanted to organise a European edition, here in the Netherlands, ever since.

This week, 400 transparency champions, developers and technologists, civil servants, journalists, diplomats, open data experts and policymakers, gathered in Amsterdam to share their knowledge on how to make government in Europe more open.

It was delighted to see so many friends and colleagues, especially these times, when transparency is debated and needed in all levels of government, from the local and national level up to the European Union and beyond.

When people are denied accurate and timely information, they become alienated from politics and government. The right to information, the freedom of expression and the protection of privacy enable us to hold the powerful to account.

Many participants are exercising these fundamental rights every single day.

Five ways to open up government

Basically, there are five ways to open up government.

  1. You can do a simple request for government information.
  2. You can harvest or scrape data available online.
  3. You can contact your political representatives in local councils and parliaments.
  4. You can go to court.
  5. Or, you can start a conversation with your own government.

The hardest thing to do is to get governments beyond their fear of openess. Transparency is an instrument for improvement.

Track-changing government

When I was at University I asked my fellow students to read my thesis. I was afraid to give something of myself to them. When I received back my paper full of comments, and redlined track-changes, I had a nervous stomach. But when I started reading it and accepting their comments, the quality of my thesis improved enormously. And this is exactly what many of us do: track-changing government.

The good news: time is on your side

Open government and open data are entering the mainstream. But we know that for active transparent government a long road is ahead of us. We haven’t yet touched its full potential.

But I have got some good news for you: Time is on your side.

This is not a hype or a new innovation. Some might think so, because they haven’t looked beyond the surface.

They haven’t see you at nights struggling with poor data, getting data out of PDF-files. They haven’t counted the days, weeks or months you were waiting for a decision on a simple request for government information.

We know that beneath the surface many of you are making that change. It is the ongoing conversation and interaction between and with governments, civil society and the private sector that help us make progress.

This is exactly why we are so happy to be able to organise this first TransparencyCamp Europe together with the Netherlands Presidency of the European Union.

Participants of TransparencyCamp Europe, including Mar Cabra and Alex Brenninkmeijer

In the wake of the Panama Papers, renewed calls for open company registers and open registers on beneficial ownership, the need for open spending, contracting and tenders data, require us to come together, join efforts and help to make the EU more transparent.

For us at Open State Foundation, TransparencyCamp Europe was just another start of this conversation. An amazing one. The coming days, we’re going to post more reports about what has been going on this week. You can relive some of the sessions and still add to the conversation.