Open Government Here at Home in Austin

An Overview of Open Government

If you’re unfamiliar, having an open government is having a government that values ongoing transparency and collaboration with citizens when it comes to decision making. I like this idea because I believe that it can help us create a more equitable society that is responsive to citizen needs.

You might identify with the idea of open government if you believe that citizens, civil servants, and elected officials should have open lines of communication and be kept accountable or if you think public data and information should be easily available for use.

The Open Government Partnership & Austin

Well just last year, the city of Austin joined the Open Government Partnership Subnational Pioneer Program. The program was started in 2016 and was in addition to the ongoing OGP program. OGP stands for Open Government Partnership which is an international initiative that seeks to make governments more accountable, empower citizens, end government corruption, and promote new technologies that make governance more efficient, transparent, and accessible. OGP started in 2011 and includes participants from 50 countries.

Austin was the only city chosen in the United States to participate in this pilot program but is joined by 14 other subnational governments from Ontario, Canada to Seoul, South Korea.

View the interactive participant map on the OGP site

Open Austin’s former Brigade Captain, Mateo Clarke wrote a letter of support for the city in February of 2016 when the city was first applying to be a part of the program. Leadership Austin also sent a letter of support. Both organizations were in favor of our governments involvement because of open practices executed over the years, such as the creation and maintenance of the cities open data portal.

An image from an Open Austin Hack Saturday event with members
Open Austin advocates for open government, open data, and civic tech. Open Austin members want to work on projects that use public open data and their own expertise to solve and explore civic problems.

Austin’s 5 Commitments

Currently, the city has 5 commitments as part of the OGP Subnational Pioneer program. These include topics such as homelessness, equity, public meetings, tracking commitments, and governance operations.

The Innovation office is our OGP point of contact and Open Austin is partnered with the city on commitment 5 which is a project tracking tool. The tool is currently still under development but has undergone some user interviews and has some wireframe comps to review.

We hope that with the completion of the project tracking tool we can have a better view of city projects, how they’re funded, and at what point in the process the project is. The goal is to use the tool to at first track future OGP commitments to ensure the city is on track and provide one source of truth for the work done and to be done.

View Austin’s Commitments and documents from OGP

What’s Ahead

There’s still work to be done to wrap up Austin’s 5 commitments but our IRM Reporter, Raymond Weyandt, has done an early assessment of the work completed so far. Austin’s Open Government Partnership Independent Reporting Mechanism (OGP IRM) Preliminary Review is now available online and open for public comment. Review and comment on the report. The commenting period will close on November 30th, 2017.

Additionally, the City of Austin is hosting an event to showcase the work they do that makes our government more open. Join me and Open Austin at the City of Austin’s Open Government Showcase.

The showcase will be held 3pm-6pm on Wednesday, December 6th a the new library. It is hosted by the City of Austin’s Innovation Office and will have representation from different city departments.

If you want to dig deeper into the work done so far in Austin, you can view the City of Austin’s Bloomfire feed with open government related updates and documents.

You can also explore other documents from the OGP process by checking out Austin’s OGP participant page.

And check out Open Austin’s and Austin Tech Alliance’s joint policy Agenda for 2018. We’d love to have you contribute to the conversation of open government in Austin.

View my other blog post about the OGP Americas Regional Meeting I attended November 20th-22nd: Open Government From Austin to Argentina: The America’s Regional Meeting

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