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The New Ambiguity of Open Government


“Open government” used to carry a hard political edge: it referred to politically sensitive disclosures of government information. However, over the last few years, this traditional meaning and the boundaries between the technologies of open data and the politics of open government have blurred. In fact, it has shifted toward the open technologies.

“Open government” used to carry a hard political edge: it referred to politically sensitive disclosures of government information. Over the last few years, however, this traditional meaning and the boundaries between the technologies of open data and the politics of open government have blurred. In fact, it has shifted toward the open technologies.

Open technologies involve sharing data over the Internet, and all kinds of governments can use them, for all kinds of reasons. Recent public policies have stretched the label “open government” to reach any public sector use of these technologies. Thus, “open government data” might refer to data that makes the government as a whole more open (that is, more transparent). It might equally well refer to politically neutral public sector disclosures that are easy to reuse, but that may have nothing to do with public accountability. Today a government can call itself “open” if it builds the right kind of website — even if it does not become more transparent or accountable. This shift in vocabulary makes it harder for policy-makers and activists to articulate clear priorities and make cogent demands.

Having Harlan Yu and David G. Robinson, the authors of The New Ambiguity of ‘Open Government’, as presenters, this BBL will provide a platform for a  discussion on the approach toward “open government” suggested by the authors: separating technological from political “openness” – in another words, separating the idea of adaptable data from that of transparent politics. What is the implication to our work with our client countries and to our open development agenda?

Speakers:

Harlan Yu is a Ph.D. candidate in Computer Science at Princeton University, and an affiliate of its Center for Information Technology Policy. His primary research areas are information privacy, security, and open government. He has extensive hands-on experience at the intersection of technology and policy, including work at Google in both engineering and public policy roles, at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and at the U.S. Department of Labor, where he helped develop and implement its open government plan. He holds an M.A. in Computer Science from Princeton and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences from UC Berkeley.

David Robinson is a Knight Law and Media Scholar in the Information Society Project, and a third year JD candidate, at Yale Law School. Before going to Yale, he served as the first Associate Director of Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy, where he ran the Center’s operations and developed its interdisciplinary research programs. He has published scholarship on Internet-enabled government transparency, and on digital copyright and trademark issues. He holds bachelors degrees in philosophy from Princeton and Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

Co-Chairs:

  • Samia Melhem, Senior Operations Officer, ICT Policy Unit
  • Helene Grandvoinnet, Lead Governance Specialist, SDV

Discussants:

  • Waleed Malik, Senior Public Sector Management Specialist, AFTPR
  • Hanif Anilmohamed Rahemtulla, Governance and Geospatial Consultant, WBIIN
  • Joshua Goldstein, Citizen Engagement and Innovation Consultant, TWICT



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