Open government and open data are new areas of research, advocacy and activism that have entered the governance field alongside the more established areas of transparency and accountability.
In this IDS Bulletin, articles review recent scholarship to pinpoint contributions to more open, transparent, accountable and responsive governance via improved practice, projects and programmes in the context of the ideas, relationships, processes, behaviours, policy frameworks and aid funding practices of the last five years. They also discuss questions and weaknesses that limit the effectiveness and impact of this work, offer a series of definitions to help overcome conceptual ambiguities, and identify hype and euphemism.
The contributions – by researchers and practitioners – approach contemporary challenges of achieving transparency, accountability and openness from a wide range of subject positions and professional and disciplinary angles. Together these articles give a sense of what has changed in this fast-moving field, and what has not – this IDS Bulletin is an invitation to all stakeholders to take stock and reflect.
The ambiguity around the ‘open’ in governance today might be helpful in that its very breadth brings in actors who would otherwise be unlikely adherents. But if the fuzzier idea of ‘open government’ or the allure of ‘open data’ displace the task of clear transparency, hard accountability and fairer distribution of power as what this is all about, then what started as an inspired movement of governance visionaries may end up merely putting a more open face on an unjust and unaccountable status quo.
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Introduction: Opening Governance – Change, Continuity and Conceptual Ambiguity Rosie McGee and Duncan Edwards
When Does ICT-Enabled Citizen Voice Lead to Government Responsiveness? Tiago Peixoto and Jonathan Fox
ICTs Help Citizens Voice Concerns over Water – Or Do They? Katharina Welle, Jennifer Williams and Joseph Pearce
When Does the State Listen? Miguel Loureiro, Aalia Cassim, Terence Darko, Lucas Katera and Nyambura Salome
Men and Women of Words: How Words Divide and Connect the Bunge La Mwananchi Movement in Kenya David Calleb Otieno, Nathaniel Kabala, Patta Scott-Villiers, Gacheke Gachihi and Diana Muthoni Ndung’u
Test It and They Might Come: Improving the Uptake of Digital Tools in Transparency and Accountability Initiatives Christopher Wilson and Indra de Lanerolle