From Tech-Driven to Human-Centred: Opengov has a Bright Future Ahead

Essay by Martin Tisné: ” The anti-corruption and transparency field ten years ago was in pre-iPhone mode. Few if any of us spoke of the impact or relevance of technology to what would become known as the open government movement. When the wave of smart phone and other technology hit from the late 2000s onwards, it hit hard, and scaled fast. The ability of technology to create ‘impact at scale’ became the obvious truism of our sector, so much so that pointing out the failures of techno-utopianism became a favorite pastime for pundits and academics. The technological developments of the next ten years will be more human-centered — less ‘build it and they will come’ — and more aware of the un-intended consequences of technology (e.g. the fairness of Artifical Intelligence decision making) whilst still being deeply steeped in the technology itself.

By 2010, two major open data initiatives had launched and were already seen as successful in the US and UK, one of President Obama’s first memorandums was on openness and transparency, and an international research project had tracked 63 different instances of uses of technology for transparency around the world (from Reclamos in Chile, to I Paid a Bribe in India, via Maji Matone in Tanzania). Open data projects numbered over 200 world-wide within barely a year of launching and to everyone’s surprise topped the list of Open Government Partnership commitments a few years hence.

The technology genie won’t go back into the bottle: the field will continue to grow alongside technological developments. But it would take a bold or foolish pundit to guess which of blockchain or other developments will have radically changed the field by 2025.

What is clearer is that the sector is more questioning towards technology, more human-centered both in the design of those technologies and in seeking to understand and pre-empt their impact….

We’ve moved from cyber-utopianism less than ten years ago to born-digital organisations taking a much more critical look at the deployment of technology. The evangelical phase of the open data movement is coming to an end. The movement no longer needs to preach the virtues of unfettered openness to get a foot in the door. It seeks to frame the debate as to whether, when and how data might legitimately be shared or closed, and what impacts those releases may have on privacy, surveillance, discrimination. An open government movement that is more human-centered and aware of the un-intended consequences of technology, has a bright and impactful future ahead….(More)”