30 May 2013
Representatives of 16 countries gathered in Mombasa, Kenya on Wednesday for the first Africa outreach meeting of the Open Government Partnership (OGP).
Launched in New York in September 2011, the OGP is international coalition of leading governments and civil society organisations aimed at advancing transparency and accountability in government, increasing civic participation and fighting corruption.
The partnership has grown since then to 59 countries, including the eight founding countries: the US, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa and the UK.
Africa is represented in the OGP by founding member South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania, who committed to joining in 2012, and Liberia and Ghana, who are in the process of joining.
Service delivery, development benefits
Speaking at the opening of the OGP Africa meeting on Wednesday, South African Deputy Public Service and Administration Minister Ayando Dlodlo said it was important to “recognise the benefits of enhancing governance in order to improve service delivery and foster development”.
Dlodlo told the gathering of politicians, administrators, civil society workers, academics and others that South Africa sought to help build strong international partnerships to promote good governance, which was “fundamental in improving the delivery of services to our citizens and enhancing public trust in government”.
While stressing the value of a civil society with the “independence, capacity and will to hold governments accountable”, Dlodlo challenged challenge African governments and civil society to move away from a “cold war of us against them” and to work together for the betterment of people’s lives.
She also highlighted the use of information communication technology (ICT) by governments, not only to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery, but also to promote information sharing and public participation.
Importance of ‘open data’
Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Information Communication and Technology Fred Matiangi relayed a welcome message from President Uhuru Kenyatta calling for constructive engagement between governments and civil society to improve the living conditions of Africa’s people.
Kenya’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communications, Bitange Ndemo, speaking at a separate session on open data, spoke about the challenge of making technical information available to the public in clearly understandable language.
Open data had to be relevant to people, Ndemo said, in order for them to understand it and use it to improve their living standards.
He lauded those Kenyans who used technology to access data and rework it in language that people could understand through smartphones and apps
“Our Open Data portal has information about the various counties we have in Kenya, and this is important for making development decisions about a county. The data compares counties to each other on which is lagging behind,” Ndemo said.
Platforms for citizen feedback
Unathi Bongco, South Africa’s OGP programme manager, told a session on improving the public service that citizen feedback was crucial in monitoring quality and improving accountability in service delivery, and noted the South African government’s use of outreach forums and special telephone hotlines to gather this feedback.
The two-day conference continued on Thursday, with panelists drawn from government and civil society set to share their experiences on open governance in the day’s main event, “Conversations with African Leaders”.
The panelists scheduled to take part included Qinisile Delwa from South Africa’s Department of Public Service and Administration, Thomas Karyah from Liberia’s Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism, Prince Kreplah of Citizens United to Promote Peace and Democracy in Liberia, Gladwell Otieno of the Africa Centre for Open Governance, and Emmanuel Kuyole of Ghana’s Revenue Watch Institute.