It’s always hard to turn up at an event where you are the newbie and the others are chatting away with each other. But this time I wasn’t the newbie, I was an ‘ old hand’ and the event was the first meeting of the new steering committee of the Open Government Network N.I. Everyone there had been elected to serve over the next two years to progress the good work of the previous steering committee. Due to other commitments, some of the previous group had not stood for re-election, so here we were, the old faces meeting the new, enthusiastic in our aim of making our public representatives more accountable to their electorate.
I have been involved since its inception and have enjoyed meeting new people and attending the various events organised by the committee. It’s good to feel involved in something that can hopefully make a difference as to how transparent our government is and how much more transparent it could be. Even more so is the fact that not having been involved in anything but childminding for some time I feel that I am contributing something to society, no matter how small that contribution may be. I confess some of it goes ‘over my head’ but I’m learning, and I now feel more confident in speaking out, so I would urge anyone with a few hours on their hands to get involved and join our network.
Our first meeting was a “getting to know each other” session and being brought up to speed on what had been happening by Jonny Bell, our network coordinator. Jonny, who plays hockey for Ireland, will be taking some time out to train for the upcoming olympics. We wish Jonny all the best and hope he gets picked for the team. We are pleased to hear that David McBurney will cover in his absence.
In October 2015 there was a meeting with officials from the Department of Finance and Personnel. This was the second time to meet and members of the committee found the meeting to be very constructive. To read more about this and to see what else has been happening, you can visit our website :http://www.opengovernment.org.uk/about/ni-ogn/
David outlined our commitments as a network for our new committee members and I have listed them here:
Open Data: Implement NI Open Data Strategy for all public sector agenciesAccess to information: Publish performance data externally; greater coordination & collaboration re Freeddom of Information; implement ‘Open by Default’ procedures.
Anti-Corruption: Fiscal transparency, citizens’ budget, open contracting pilot.
Technology & Inovation: New tools & opportunities for citizen engagement.
Public Accountability: Publish diary information in open data format; greater lobbying transparency; forum to monitor delivery of Open Government commitment.
Citizen Engagement: Adopt open policy making principles in NI; pilot projects re participatory budgeting; open contracting; open policy making etc; make NI Direct a more effective consultation hub; create a consultation tool kit; evaluate consultation impact.
We also have a very interesting programme of events over the coming months. On Thursday 11 February, Brian Cleland of the University of Ulster, will deliver a seminar on Open Data and Transparency. Apply here if that floats your boat. If you can’t make it, I hope to ‘do a Basil ‘ and periscope the seminar:
This year we are pleased to have two events included in the Imagine Belfast Festival. The first event is in the City Hall on 16 March is entitled ‘Open Government for the Common Good.’ Further details can be found here:
On the 18 March a mock participatory budgeting exercise called ‘ How would you spend your Council’s Money? An excerise in participatory budgeting‘ will take place at The Mac. I think there might be a few interesting suggestions for that one. Again further details here:
We would love to see you at some or all of the above events, so come along and support us and help us to work towards a more open government in Northern Ireland.