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With Weeks To Go, Open Government Partnership Expands Its Roster

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, September 6 2011

At least 17 countries will be on the roster of an international partnership on transparency and open government by an announcement date set for later this month, Freedominfo.org reports.

The coalition, called the Open Government Partnership and made public in July, could be called a sort of support group for countries willing to operate in a more open and participatory way. Membership means making some public commitments about increasing government transparency and making it easier to participate in government, including through new technologies. It also means signing on for an internal review of efforts in those areas, as well as some watchdoggery by open government experts outside of government. In exchange, countries get seats at the same table to share ideas and solutions with each other and with non-governmental organizations, not to mention the goodwill that comes with being in a box labeled "open government."

This whole endeavor is worth watching because it is one of the initiatives that is incrementally reshaping expectations around the way citizens and governments interact, not just in the U.S., but around the world.

The partnership is already led by a steering committee of eight countries: The U.S. and Brazil, which are co-chairing the committee; South Africa; the United Kingdom; Norway; Mexico; Indonesia and the Phillippines. On Sept. 20, those eight will reveal action plans for open government and transparency efforts in their countries, as well as a multilateral open government declaration that their representatives have been crafting in committee with an international group of non-governmental organizations.

Citing a U.S. official, Freedominfo.org reported Friday that nine countries — Kenya, Guatemala, Honduras, Albania, Macedonia, Malta, Georgia, Moldova and Slovakia — have submitted letters of intent.

Someone familiar with OGP's international efforts told me that more than nine countries had submitted letters of intent, but would not say which ones those were. They will be announced on Sept. 20 and have until March 2012 to do what the steering committee countries have been doing, this person said — namely, pulling together action plans in line with a "road map" for participation that OGP has published on its website.

Each current OGP member was expected to spend the last few months crafting an action plan in consultation with the public. Here in the U.S., officials within the White House Office of Management and Budget is leading that effort, most recently soliciting comment through the second in a series of blog posts. OMB officials have held consultations with a select group of open government advocates, and promised one more before finalizing its action plan.