10 Open Government Myths

By Joy Aceron*

As I attend my 3rd Open Government Partnership (OGP) Global Summit in Tblisi, Georgia, I am hoping to see progress in this network in breaking what I refer to as "open government myths." 

Let me share 10 of my most favorite:

1. That if you provide a mechanism or process, make data available or pass a policy, people will come and use it for accountability and empowerment.

2. That if people come, their voices are heard. 

3. That when government hears people's voice, the government will respond. 

4. That when government gives an answer, they follow through to resolve or address the issue and sustain the solution.

5. That openness, civic tech, participation, accountability, etc. are automatically good - that there is no way they could also perpetuate exclusion, oppression and abuse. 

6. That people mean the same thing and work on the same goals when they use the same words and say the same things. 

7. That nominal representation of marginalized groups is already progress. 

8. That gain means measurable targets achieved, so achieving low-hanging fruits are better, even when this means leaving behind battles that are more fundamental and substantive because they are likely to deliver zero measurable gains at a given period when results are needed to be showcased for next funding.

9. That 'constructive engagement' with the government is the only way citizen participation can be effective and civic space can be protected and broadened. 

10. That people coming together in a conference means that they are already part of a movement employing a coordinated strategy towards a common vision. 

Like any myth, to break them, we need to name them. But it doesn't stop there, it takes continuing myth-buster efforts and the re-telling and rebooting of these efforts. 

Unless we progress in breaking myths, as we always remind ourselves, we could be in danger of already being part of the problem without us knowing - perpetuating myths that camouflage the real issues and distract us from truly making a real difference. 

*Joy Aceron is Convenor-Director of Government Watch (www.g-watch.org) and a Research Fellow of Accountability Research Center based in School of International Service of American University in Washington, DC (www.accountabilityresearch.org).