Open Government initiatives have to reach all the ranks of the public sector, from the state, to the local and provincial, through the autonomous. What role do provincial entities play in this regard, such as councils, assemblies and island councils? We respond to this below.
As we well know, the concept of Open Government is based on 3 fundamental pillars, Transparency, Open Data and Citizen Participation. From the Spanish Administration and for several years, it is committed to provide the governing organizations with guidelines and recommendations that facilitate this approach to citizenship.
Perhaps the clearest proof of this is the drafting by the Ministry of Territorial Policy and Public Function of the Open Government Plan, which is already in its third edition. Throughout its different updates, this plan has focused its actions on:
- Strengthen participation and dialogue mechanisms with civil society. For this, Open Government actions must respond to the true needs of citizens.
- Ensure cooperation between the different levels of Administration (state, regional and local).
- Strengthen the foundations of Open Government and lay the foundations that allow the adoption of actions that go beyond the plan itself.
- Define a new participatory strategy for Open Data based on both transparency and the reuse and strengthening of active advertising.
Of the facets on which the concept of Open Government is based, it is in the Open Data where Spain stands out notably. Spain is in a privileged place, as evidenced by its more than 23,800 catalogs and 295 initiatives, which, according to the Open Data Portal datos.gob.es, are distributed as follows:
- 43 states.
- 18 autonomous.
- 224 locals.
- 10 of universities.
At European level, Spain is second only to Ireland in this area. Being a reference in open data has positive consequences on its economy, as reflected in the report of the infomediary sector in Spain made by ASEDIE (Multisectoral Information Association). This says that there are 662 companies whose central activity is the reuse of data, which accumulate a turnover of 1,700 million euros and that employ 19,347 people.
Regarding the situation of Spain in terms of citizen participation, according to the study on E-Government 2018 of the United Nations we are in the eighth worldwide, surpassed by Denmark, Finland, South Korea, the Netherlands, Australia, Japan and New Zealand.
Nor should we leave behind everything related to the transparency of the information that public administrations bring to light. If we attend to the report published by the Spanish Transparency Portal, from December 2014 to November 2018, a total of more than 12 million pages of said portal were visited, showing an upward trend. In addition, the transparency survey prepared by the Transparency and Good Governance Council expresses the recognition and confidence of the citizens of the information published in the respective transparency portals.
Situation of the Open Government at the municipal level, of provincial councils, assemblies and island councils
Let us refine the vision a little more and focus on a more local and provincial area. Throughout this situation analysis we will take a prior look at the state of Open Government at the local level, which will serve as an introduction and whose conclusions may in some cases be extrapolated to the analysis of the panorama in councils, assemblies and island councils.
First, we will pay attention to the Evaluation of Open Government Portals in Spain presented during the III Congress of Smart Cities. In it, an analysis of the Open Government websites of 63 Spanish cities is carried out, all of them with more than 200,000 inhabitants, drawing the following general conclusions:
- Open data portals are not developed in a homogeneous way.
- The different levels of public administration are not coordinated in their Open Government strategies.
- There are many initiatives that should serve as an example for the development of others.
Of all the entities analyzed in this report, the Open Data portals of the cities of Valencia, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Seville and Santander stand out, which all have the solution offered by OGoov for the display of these portals.
Finally, this study offers certain recommendations for improvement, such as standardizing strategies, that open data is really open, standardized, interoperable, linkable, readable and accessible, carry out campaigns to promote citizen participation, create a set of indicators for monitoring open data, as well as a scoreboard that allows a better visualization of the most relevant data.
Paying attention to the Provincial Councils, Dyntra, a collaborative platform created to assess the situation of levels of transparency in governments and administrations, among other organizations, is of great interest.
To rate the different initiatives, indexes are created by researchers, social actors and the Public Administrations themselves. Based on these indices, transparency classifications of the organisms studied are developed.
In the case of provincial, regional and town councils, the Dyntra ranking is headed today by the Provinces of Orense, Granada, Malaga, Guipúzcoa and Barcelona.
The Dyntra website also offers us the option to filter the results by provincial councils (Guipúzcoa, Álava and Vizcaya), island councils (Canary Islands) or island assemblies (Balearic Islands). Note that this classification also reflects some open data indicators, but in a very low proportion if we compare them with those of transparency.
Finally, we must mention the Transparency Index of the Provinces (INDIP, by its acronym in Spanish), prepared by the non-governmental organization Transparency International.
This evaluates 6 areas of transparency: information on the Provincial Council, relations with citizens and society, economic-financial transparency, transparency in the Contracting of services, transparency in services and support to municipalities and indicators of the Transparency Law.
The latest INDIP published dates from 2015 and it measured 80 indicators of 45 provincial councils, assemblies and island councils, which obtained an average score of 81.7%. According to this report, the leading Deputations were those of Huelva, Palencia, Tarragona, Valladolid and Vizcaya.
Although it is a study that may be somewhat obsolete, comparing it with the previous ones can serve to give us an idea of how it has evolved in terms of transparency by these organizations.
Local and provincial Open Government initiatives
Once we have reviewed the current situation of Open Government in public entities, paying special attention at the local and, above all, provincial level, it is time to focus our attention on those most notable projects and initiatives.
On the one hand we have the Aporta program, developed by the Ministry of Economy and Business, the Ministry of Territorial Policy and Public Function and the Public Business Entity Red.es. Its objective is to promote the opening of public information and the development of advanced data-based services.
The activity of the Aporta program is based on 7 lines of action:
- Awareness and communication.
- Statistical analysis of open data initiatives.
- Regulation to achieve an optimal legislative framework.
- National cooperation.
- International cooperation.
- National catalog hosted on datos.gob.es.
- Support for innovation.
At the local level, we can highlight the actions undertaken by the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (SFMP). This interprovincial institution has recently published the document Open Data FEMP 2019: 40 data sets to be published by Local Entities, an update of the text prepared in 2017, with which the original document has been extended by 20 data sets.
With the preparation of this report, recommendations and methods are offered to facilitate the opening of data, explaining aspects such as laws, governance model or how an open data portal should be structured.
It contains tabs for each data set with advice on update frequency, forms of visual representation, reuse value or complexity level. All this with the aim of facilitating reuse and interoperability of public sector data.
This document also reveals the 40 data sets considered by their authors as the most interesting and simple to publish by local administrations.
If we look at the scope of the provincial councils, our participation in the Open Data Portal of the Diputación de Cádiz is remarkable, where we had to migrate the data to a new platform that complied with the regulations regarding the Reuse of Information of the Public Sector (RIPS) and its Technical Interoperability Standard (TIS). This project was awarded as the best Open Government project at the National Congress of Innovation and Public Services (NCIPS) 2017.
We can also talk about the recent project developed for the Provincial Council of Seville. Through it, both the open data portal of the Provincial Council will be launched soon, as well as those of the municipalities that wish to join the initiative.
We must not leave behind the fact that provincial councils have also focused on activities aimed at raising public awareness of elements of Open Government, such as citizen participation. Without going any further, the Diputación de Cádiz itself has launched projects such as the School of Citizenship, consisting of several courses and workshops aimed at training the general public.
The construction of a society in constant progress and improvement involves the creation of a culture that encourages data openness, transparency and citizen participation. Governments must not only focus their efforts on information of a social and economic nature, but must also opt for those of another type that help different organizations, public and private, to make decisions.
Local and provincial public entities, such as municipalities, councils, assemblies and island councils, must act as a catalyst of this change. Change in which we are immersed as demonstrated by various initiatives. Despite this, the room for improvement is wide, with much work to be done to achieve an excellent level of Open Government.