Promoting Open Government in Macedonia
Macedonia sought to develop and implement an Open Government Plan as part of its effort for government transparency, as well as to meet EU online service requirements. The exchange helped to raise awareness and understanding of the e-Government agenda among Macedonian officials and helped to establish data sets in each ministry appropriate for e-Services.
Macedonia has invested heavily in communication and technology development in recent years, particularly in the area of e-Government. Its National Strategy for e-Government, 2010-2012, targeted the creation of a wide range of e-Services, largely to help meet EU requirements for online service delivery. Macedonia has successfully launched a variety of e-Services, including e-Tax for firms, export/import licensing, cargo transport licenses, electronic land registry, and e-Procurement. However, the move toward open government was hindered by a lack of citizen engagement and demand and by low awareness in e-Services, and subsequent investment in, by policymakers. Brazil and Moldova were chosen for the exchange based on their experience with the Open Government and Innovation Economy ecosystems and related reform agenda. Objectives for the exchange were to build awareness and capacity to implement e-Government, address deficiencies in policies and standards, teach officials how to engage with citizens online, and create a roadmap to implementation.
The knowledge exchange followed on the heels of the World Bank-hosted global dialogue, “Opening Up Development: How Can Countries Start and Run Data Ecosystems?” in December 2011. Among the 10 participating countries were Macedonia and Moldova. In February 2012, a core group of policymakers from Macedonia and Moldova met via videoconferencing to develop an action plan to submit to the Open Government Partnership (OGP). An online community of practice for open government in Macedonia was also established.
Two delegates from Macedonia, Irena Bojadzievska from Ministry of Information Society and Administration and her colleague from Ministry of Foreign Affairs attended the OGP Annual Meeting in Brazil (OGP chair) in April 2012. Following the meeting, the two Macedonia delegates joined a study visit with key counterparts from Brazil, Tunisia, and Moldova; and a few international experts. The study visit included meetings and presentations on e-Government strategies; Open Public Software; the e-Democracia Portal, which allows citizens to participate in the legislative process; Lexml, a searchable index of legal bills and documents; Siga, an Open Budget Portal that permits crossings of databases; the Transparency Portal, which publishes data on the executive branch; and e-Voting.
To follow up, the Government of Macedonia held Open Data Knowledge Sharing workshops in Skopje in October 2012. The Minister of Information Society and Administration invited World Bank representatives to ministerial meetings to brief the Ministers of Health, Education, Transport, and Communication on the value of open data and how to manage political risk. In due course, the Government held a public seminar on “Achieving Benefits from Open Data” to boost demand for e-Services, and hosted a workshop and clinic on open data attended by 70 representatives from various sectors. Stakeholders in Macedonia also held a videoconference with Moldovan officials and experts to share experiences and encourage ongoing knowledge exchange.
[OGP was launched in 2011 to provide an international platform for domestic reformers committed to making their governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens. Since then, OGP has grown from 8 countries to the 65 participating countries. In all of these countries, government and civil society are working together to develop and implement ambitious open government reforms. Opengovernmentpartnership.org]
Although reluctant and reserved at the beginning, the Macedonian ministers who met with World Bank delegates at the October (2012) meeting ended up suggesting datasets to be opened. The ministers appointed contact persons from their ministries to work with the Ministry of Information Society and Administration.
- Ivo Ivanovski, Minister of Information Society and Administration, demonstrated strong will and support for this initiative by organizing and personally hosting all Skopje meetings.
- The workshops and videoconference showed that the concept of open data was fully embraced by the civil society and private sector as exemplified by their many questions and positive comments.
- “[Open Government] largely remains perceived as project of the Ministry of Information Society. The institutions did not recognize the advantages of it, but the opposite; they see us as a burden creating for them additional amount of work. So raising awareness and all the other methods we tried did not come back with good results,” wrote Irena Bojadzievska, who coordinates the Open Government Initiative at the Ministry. “So, I am 100 percent sure now that individual open data plans per institutions would not work. However, it was a good exercise as I am now clear that everything I want to establish cannot be left to initiatives or global will; it has to be part of a legislative act (a law).”
- Bojadezivska prepared a white paper on what data is hosted by what institution, adopted by the government commissions.
- The sequential, multi-channel approach to knowledge exchange—including expert visits, in-country engagements, a study tour, videoconferencing, and online communities of practice—helped generate dialogue among different stakeholders. The workshops and best practice knowledge shared by Brazilian and Moldovan counter parts facilitated an atmosphere of optimism and helped break the myth that Open Data is complex and difficult to implement in Macedonia. The sessions helped educate policy makers and the public in Macedonia about the importance of Open Data. Given Macedonia’s large investment in Technology infrastructure and eGovernment services, the workshop was able to convince policy makers and government officials that adopting Open Data practices was but a natural step in the journey for Macedonia to stimulate more employment, greater cross department data sharing, greater citizen engagement and improvements in government performance.
- Content should be closely aligned with the priorities of the World Bank country office and the participating governments, and officials from other countries who have participated in and implemented Open Data Programs should be team members for the exchange, as this facilitates sharing lessons of experience between nations.
- Provision of a small amount of funds to facilitate follow-up by the team after the project concludes will help achieve better results. Also, it is important to encourage follow-up exchange between the countries.
- Meeting in both formal meetings and over informal meals helped establish not only a technical/policy exchange but also a cultural one.
- The World Bank must be demand driven, or at least demand sensitive, in selecting exchange areas.
- Knowledge exchange activities afford the World Bank and the client government an opportunity to determine client’s level of readiness before major resources are committed.
As a result of this knowledge exchange, the Government has internalized the Open Data and Open Government agenda and has officially requested World Bank support for implementation of Open Data and Analytics activities through the Minister of Finance. A new investment lending project is being discussed between the Government and the World Bank with the Data Innovations component, which will be used as a platform for implementation of Open Data and Big Data analytics initiatives.
The World Bank designed the customized knowledge exchange program, funded visits by two Macedonian to Brazil, convened the knowledge exchanges, and provided experts for Open Government and Open Data workshops. Total expenditure was US$48090.24 plus related staff time and travel.
e-Government Center, created with the support of the World Bank and in charge of implementing the e-Transformation and Open Government agenda across sectors
Ministry of Information Society and Administration, the office in charge of Macedonia’s OGP.
Office of Comptroller General, the institution responsible for leading Brazil’s OGP.
Ivo Ivanovski, Minister of Information Society and Administration
Mile Janakieski, Minister of Transport and Communication
Nikola Todorov, Minister of Health
Pance Kralev, Minister of Education
Vanco Kostadinovski, Director of the Central Registry
Slavco Trpevski, Director of Cadastre Agency
Natasa Stojmanovska, State Secretary of the Ministry of Finance
Gordana Jankulovska, Minister of Interior
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Director of Personal Data Protection Agency
Irina Tisacova, Open Data lead, eGovernment Center
Victor Bodiu, Secretary General of Moldovan Government
Veronica Cretu, Civil Society
Anton Perkin, Head of Independent Developers Association –
Luiz Navarro, Vice-Minister of the Office of the Comptroller General
Cesar Brod, General Coordinator of Technology Innovation
Sergio Sampaio, Secretary General of the House of Representatives
Rogerio Ventura, General Director, House of Representatives
Cristiano Ferri, Project Manager of e-Democracia
Afranio Moreira, Director of Prodasen (the Data Processing Center of the Brazilian Federal Senate
Pedro Mascarenhas, Deputy Director of Prodasen
Rita Fonseca dos Santos, Deputy Budget Director of Consultancy of Senate
Joao Alberto Lima, Coordinator of the Leml Project
Mario Spinelli, Secretary of Corruption Prevention
Izabela Correa, Manager of Transparency and Integrity Promotion
Guiseppe Janino, Secretary of Information Technology, Supreme Electoral Court
Augusto Herrmann, Time de Dados Abertos, INDA, wrote: “[The knowledge exchange] reinforced the need to register and systematize the knowledge about how to design and implement open data policies, which had so far been a result of experimentation despite the existence of a few international technical and advocacy guides (such as the Open Data Handbook). But in regards to planning and managing open data projects in public administration, it was all tacit knowledge we had obtained in an ad hoc basis of practicing it. Since then, we've written down our own Toolkit for Open Data (http://kit.dados.gov.br), intended for Brazilian public institutions, both in federal and local levels. Since it's on GITHUB (https://github.com/dadosgovbr/kit), it's been independently reused by someone, apparently in Jamaica. We also do recommend the World Bank's Open Government Data Toolkit, even though we haven't had the chance to use it ourselves.”
Website (dedicated to the study tour):http://go.worldbank.org/N4MG7TR130