The U.S. State Department’s recent announcement that it will use technology-enabled diplomacy to advance open government activities worldwide was great news for the international public safety and defense community. Many countries have established open government initiatives to help improve service delivery, reduce corruption, improve public engagement, and boost their economies. A proven side benefit of open government programs is improved public safety, so improving the former improves the latter.
Social media, cloud, mobile and other technologies help improve the public trust that encourages political dialogue and peaceful transitions of power. History has shown that governments that embrace technology to make their data and activities transparent to their people reduce the chances and severity of civil strife and international sanctions.
In concert, these tools help people know more about what their governments are doing, their options for engaging in discourse and how to effect change. Open government programs reward good government behavior, encourage accountability, and make it easier for domestic and international groups to pressure for reforms.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the announcement at the Open Government Partnership (OGP)’s first annual meeting last month in Brasilia, Brazil. Created in September 2011, the OGP is an international effort designed to “advance specific initiatives to promote transparency, fight corruption, and energize civic engagement and to leverage new technologies so that we strengthen the foundation of freedom in our own countries while living up to ideals that can light the world,” Clinton said in her remarks. (You can watch her entire presentation in this video.)
In fact, Clinton emphasized the inescapable relationship between open government and public safety and predicted some future outcomes:
In the 21st century, one of the most significant divisions among nations will not be by geography so much as whether they are open or closed societies. Countries with open governments, open economies, and open societies will increasingly flourish. They will become more prosperous, healthier, more secure, and more peaceful.
By contrast, those governments that hide from public view and dismiss the idea of openness will find it increasingly difficult to maintain peace and security. Those countries that attempt to monopolize economic activity or make it so difficult for individuals to open their own businesses will find it hard to prosper.
The OGP has made rapid progress in less than a year. Starting with eight countries – co-founders Brazil and the United States, along with Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, the United Kingdom – the group now has 55 participating governments representing nearly two billion people. Last month’s meeting had representatives from 73 governments and 200 civil organizations.
Its mission drives home the fact that technology-enabled government transparency is essential not just for participation in a modern economy, but for improved public safety as well. We’ll continue following the OGP’s progress and inform our readers of other important developments.
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