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An Open Declaration on European Public Services
The needs of today’s society are too complex to be met by government alone. While traditional government policies sought to automate public services and encourage self-service, the biggest impact of the web will be in improving services through collaboration, transparency and knowledge-sharing.
Europe should grasp this opportunity and rebuild the relationship between citizens and the state by opening up public institutions and by empowering citizens to take a more active role in public services.
As citizens, we want full insight into all the activities undertaken on our behalf. We want to be able to contribute to public policies as they are developed, implemented, and reviewed. We want to be actively involved in designing and providing public services with extensive scope to contribute our views and with more and more decisions in our hands. We want the whole spectrum of government information from draft legislation to budget data to be easy for citizens to access, understand, reuse, and remix. This is not because we want to reduce government’s role, but because open collaboration will make public services better and improve the quality of decision-making.
Against this background, we propose three core principles for European public services:
1. Transparency: all public sector organisations should be “transparent by default” and should provide the public with clear, regularly-updated information on all aspects of their operations and decision-making processes. There should also be robust mechanisms for citizens to highlight areas where they would like to see further transparency. When providing information, public sector organisations should do so in open, standard and reusable formats (with, of course, full regard to privacy issues).
2. Participation: government should pro-actively seek citizen input in all its activities from user involvement in shaping services to public participation in policy-making. This input should be public for other citizens to view and government should publicly respond to it. The capacity to collaborate with citizens should become a core competence of government.
3. Empowerment: public institutions should seek to act as platforms for public value creation. In particular, government data and government services should be made available in ways that others can easily build on. Public organisations should enable all citizens to solve their problems for themselves by providing tools, skills and resources. They should also treat citizens as owners of their own personal data and enable them to monitor and control how these data are shared.
We recognise that implementing these principles will take time and resources as governance mechanisms will have to be adapted, but we believe they should be at the heart of efforts to transform government. Citizens are already acting on these ideas and transforming public services “from the outside”, but governments should support and accelerate this process.
We call on European governments and the European Commission to incorporate these principles in their eGovernment action plans and ensure that Europe’s citizens enjoy the benefits of transparent, participative, empowering government as soon as possible.