Open Government

We can define open government as a doctrine, a policy or a philosophy that aims (usually within a democratic (participatory) system), that citizens ask, interest, participate, collaborate with public services and governments are opened to all levels for effective scrutiny and oversight of citizens.


This movement emerged in the 1970s in England as a reaction to secrecy and opacity, and thus to claim free access to information, transparency and accountability, and, in general, the demands of change in the form and the background of the act of governing.

The three basic pillars of the concept of Open Government are:

  1. Transparency
  2. Collaboration
  3. Participation

In addition, in order to be effective these three attitudes / activities requires a certain infrastructure that makes it possible and an effective and evaluable communication model.

The set of instruments necessary to implement an open model system also requires a certain legislative framework, the promotion and training of the activity by the citizens, in addition to a long list:

  • data protection
  • data visualization (Open data + visualization system)
  • the formulas for participation and collaboration
  • advertising

The first objective of open government has been the need to overcome the limitations of:

  • Distrust of public institutions
  • Abstention
  • Devaluation of politics and politicians
  • Distancing between citizens and their representatives

The ultimate goal of open government is to improve government *, and therefore there must be a system that allows monitoring the impact of the actions and the corresponding vertical and horizontal feedback. However, it is discussed about what the objectives are: greater efficiency in the provision of services? And / or a process of collective construction of society?

* When is it better ?: When does it become more permeable to citizens’ needs (and preferences)? When is corruption reduced?

E-government or e-administration

ICTs and web 2.0, or an even wider environment, SMACT (Social Networks, Mobile, Analytical / Big Data, Cloud Computing and Internet of Things) are today structures / systems essential for open government:

  • Blogs (citizens, politicians, technicians, projects, …)
  • Social networks (citizens, social projects, technical, political, …)
  • Platforms (of communication, exchange, with intermediaries, …)
  • Electronic Administration / Citizen Services
  • Facebook, Twitter, Github, Youtube, Flickr, Slideshare, …

The open government has extended its influence in many countries of the world, for example, in Spain, from local institutions and bodies (local councils, local corporations, county councils, deputations, metropolitan entities, associations …) to national entities, autonomies , Regions, countries and even supranational bodies (Council of Europe, European Union, …).

The acceleration of innovation

Governments have discovered that the data that their organizations collect as part of their day-to-day operations (applications, construction permit applications, restaurant inspection reports and a growing volume of data from sensor networks) can be an extremely powerful. When carefully compiled and contextualized and aggregated, these open data are high-impact public information that can help reveal innovative solutions to old problems.

The Benefits of Reimagining Government


The alternative model of government based on data generates benefits in the following four areas:

  1. Economic development: emerging information economics. By accelerating the flow of data between government and external entities such as business and academic institutions, it helps to incubate new civic initiatives, support business research and consumer development and training efforts to make better purchasing decisions Informed The relationships between the different agents can be visualized in models such as the Fivefold Helix (previously Triple Helix Model) and participation instruments such as Living Labs and Think Tanks or in joint initiatives such as Advanced Manufacturing.
  1. Citizen experience: By providing more government services such as location-oriented applications, citizens are given a more user-friendly experience with government: real-time information on public works projects, transit times and emergency alerts, and integration with consumer web services like Google, Yelp and Zillow, which increases the use of public data sites. This, in turn, strengthens citizen participation and supports government efforts to engage the public in decision-making.
  1. Governance: Commitment to a data-centric approach supports government efforts to establish clear and measurable goals and rigorously track performance in favor of those goals. This requires governments to expand opportunities for collaboration and empower employees to make decisions based on facts, factors that ultimately result in better public policies.
  1. Operational Efficiency: By shifting their information-sharing infrastructure to the cloud, government organizations can also reinvent processes, remove obsolete systems, and scale programs more easily. By consolidating and reusing ICT assets, increasing access to self-service information and reducing the system’s maintenance burden, government organizations can save millions on technology and staff costs.

The evaluation of public policies

It is considered a pending subject. Any action, plan, program, project must include from the first moment of its design a clear explanation of its primary and secondary objectives and the mode / instrument with which it will be monitored and evaluated. An impact assessment is to measure the effects (outcomes, outcomes, consequences, …) of an action, plan, program or project on the target area or population and to know if those effects are actually attributable to such intervention or not, , And to what extent they were achieved over what was expected.

Collective intelligence and redarchy/netarchy (redarquía)

The possibility of the same citizens who organize themselves outside the parties and who design and have the tools to control the governments and the activity of their representatives, promotes the construction of social capital and a kind of collective intelligence (Lévy , 2004).

The redarchy, as a form of interrelation (/ structure) allows participation and collaboration, and therefore, the emergence of collective intelligence (= deliberation and collective decision making). Rarity makes it possible for creative people to opt for those contributions that motivate them best and are best aligned with their own abilities. Collaborative relationships are based on trust, participation and added value of people. The redarquía makes possible the participation of all, working in community, and at the same time generates its own coordination mechanism, that is to say, the main method used to coordinate its activities of innovation and exploration of the new realities.

View information

In a text, say a report, or a set of data, are deliberately assembled elements and others are placed with due intention. There is no chance, everything is choice. This makes the open data diffusion spaces inherently subjective in which the government part takes part and shows its opinion. If texts are combined with images, diagrams, diagrams, drawings, communicate in a more agile and effective way and facilitate the understanding of concepts and the ability to intuit them, to face them and to discover, develop and Share new ideas (visual thinking), putting them in contact with the previous ones. The drawing reduces the misunderstandings of the speech, especially since each one, by making it his own, reorders it and remakes it in his image. When drawing and observing, we share a system. In addition, it can even be fun (Knowgarden).

Ignasi Alcalde cites three functions of data visualization:

  1. Register: store information synthetically
  2. Analyze: provide support for reasoning about information
  3. Communicate: transmit information to others

Examples of Open Governments

We could not end this article without citing, even if testimonial and for the consultation of our readers some examples of open governments of our environment:

I take this opportunity to thank the inestimable help of Cèlia Figueras Horcas [Diploma in Library Science and Documentation by the University of Barcelona 2008, Master in Digital Content Management University of Barcelona 2011 and Content coordinator in the development of the intranet and the corporate WEB of the Corporation Sanitaria Parc Taulí] in the selection of materials for the elaboration of this article and in the previous discussion of some of the concepts.

However, the responsibility for the contents of this post is absolutely mine alone.


If you want to know a little bit more…


Carayannis, E.G. & Campbell, D.F.J. (2012) Mode 3 Knowledge Production in Quadruple Helix Innovation Systems, SpringerBriefs in Business 7.

Fundación Telefónica (2013) Las Tic en el Gobierno abierto: Transparencia, participación y colaboración. Ariel.

Fundación Telefónica – Diversos autores (2013) Dossier Open Government. TELOS 94. Cuadernos de Comunicación e Innovación.

Lévy, P. (2004) Inteligencia col·lectiva. Por una antropologia del ciberespacio

Ramírez-Alujas, A.V. (2011) Gobierno abierto y modernización de la gestión pública: Tendencias actuales y el (inevitable) camino que viene. Reflexiones seminales. Revista Enfoques. Vol. IX, n. 15.

Peña-López, I. (2017). Citizen participation and the rise of the open source city in Spain. Bengaluru: IT for Change. Retrieved May 20, 2017.

Sibbet, D. (2012) Pensamiento visual. Cómo potenciar la innovación en equipo mediante gráficos, pósits y mapas de ideas. Connecta.

Roam, D. (2010) Tu mundo en una servilleta. Gestión 2000.


Other websites and documents of interest in the topic: