Achieving Poverty Reduction and Economic Development Through Open Government: How Can We Achieve Them?

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By: Open Government Indonesia National Secretariat

The typical question that people ask about open government: does it truly bring benefit to the people? The question has been around and until now, the open government champions mainly depend on more normative argument and have not touched the economic reasoning of why open government. The “Achieving Poverty Reduction and Economic Development Through Open Government” session in Asia Pacific Leaders Forum on Open Government 2017 tried to find the answer.

Moderated by Vivi Alatas, Lead Economist on Poverty at World Bank Office, Indonesia, the session tried to find example, evidences, and indications on how open government can truly contribute to the prosperity of the people. Drawing the experience from academicians, ministers, technocrats, and activists, the session has produced three key important messages on how open government can bring benefits to the people.

First, public participation, the core principle of open government, really works to improve public service delivery. As outlined by Lina Marliani, Executive Director of JPAL, Indonesia, public participation can help improving the quality of services. And this claim supported by the evidence from the ground. Bupati Suyoto of Bojonegor Reget, Indonesia, can attest for it.

Bupati Suyoto since he was elected to the office, has tried hard to earn trust from the citizens. He opens up the governing process and makes regular town hall meeting to work with citizens resolving real issues. He said that this process actually helps him in designing better policies in combating poverty and developing Bojonegoro. The result speaks for itself. Bojonegoro over the past few years has moved from one of the poorest regents in East Java into a regent with the highest rate of poverty reduction.

The second message is the importance of enabling policies for participation to thrive. Minister Tsulikiani of Georgia and Secretary of Diokno of Philippines highlighted the enabling policies they have set up in their respective countries. The government of Georgia has put open government at the forefront of reforms in the country and as the result of transparency and participation that is installed at the core of governing, Georgia can earn a high place at Ease of Doing Business index, on par with leading economies like Singapore and New Zealand.

The current government of Philippines has put a strong emphasis on infrastructure development believes that it requires active participation from the citizens to ensure the success. Hence, the government set a platform (http://build.gov.ph/) for citizens to monitor the current progress of key infrastructure projects. This allows citizens and CSO to closely watch the projects, ensure their success and compliance to social and environmental safeguard standards.

As described above, the enabling policies that set up by the government allow non-state actors to participate, and without participation, poverty reduction and economic development cannot be fully realized. Andreas Sihotang from Wahana Visi Indonesia attests that. Wahana Visi Indonesia’s Citizen Voice and Action project shows the real evidence on how the interaction between citizens at a grassroots level can accelerate poverty reduction agenda through improved service delivery. This cannot be done without policies and spaces that provided by the government to allow open government initiatives to thrive.

Last but not least message in this session is the importance of data. Participation is not enough. What it is needed the most is informed participation. Data has to be the centrepiece of discussion and participation to ensure quality feedback from the citizens. Quality feedbacks help the government to refine its effort in designing policies and activities to combat poverty and spur economic growth. Deputy Minister Utomo of Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairs, Indonesia and Executive Secretary Widianto of National Team for The Acceleration of Poverty Reduction (TNP2K), Indonesia emphasize data and transparency as a key component in supporting the open government agenda.

Deputy Minister Utomo presented the One Map Policy, especially the part on how data can be shared between government institutions and to citizens. The one standardized map can be a powerful tool for citizens and government alike to design solutions in response to poverty and economic challenges. By allowing data to be shared to citizens, the government can get better input or even can solicit more solutions from citizens.

Executive Secretary Widianto explained the importance of transparency and he brought the case on how transparency and accountability can help delivering education cash assistance. By putting the information upfront and allowing people to access it, the delivery of cash assistance can be monitored together and put the officials in charge accountable.

Open government may not the panacea for all problem in the world, but in this session, the participants can learn that citizen participation, the core principle of open government, can truly work in improving the services of government. Improved public services strongly correlated to improved well-being of the people, and this is the key component in combating poverty and boosting economic growth. But to have active participation, the government has to play role in enabling it to happen, while supplying the citizens with relevant information so the citizens can provide better quality feedbacks to the governments.

However, the next burning question is how we can make it more effective, well-targeted, and scalable. Hence, both governments and citizens need to work harder and collaborate more. Open government is never an end, but a means to achieve a greater goal of improving the well-being of people. This session does not end all debate on open government and economic development, but it invigorates the trust and belief in open government that open government really works for the people.

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