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Open Data and Citizen Engagement, Philippines

Authors:

Gabriel Baleos founded and currently runs Loopr Apps Corporation, a development consulting firm specializing in civic tech. His consulting practice focuses on open data, ICT for development and governance and fintech. Liza Garcia is Executive Director of the Foundation for Media Alternatives, Philippines. She specializes in women's rights and ICTs. Jessamine Pacis is a Program Officer at Foundation for

This report is the outcome of collaboration between IT for Change and Foundation for Media Alternatives, Philippines under a research project titled Voice or Chatter? Using a Structuration Framework Towards a Theory of ICT-mediated Citizen Engagement.

This research has been produced with the financial support of Making All Voices Count.

Making All Voices Count is a programme working towards a world in which open, effective and participatory governance is the norm and not the exception. This Grand Challenge focuses global attention on creative and cutting-edge solutions to transform the relationship between citizens and their governments. Making All Voices Count is supported by the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID), U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Swedish

International Development Cooperation Agency, and Omidyar Network (ON), and is implemented by a consortium consisting of Hivos, the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and Ushahidi. The programme is inspired by and supports the goals of the Open Government Partnership. 

Publication

When Benigno Aquino III ran for the position of President of the Philippines in 2010, he ran on the campaign slogan “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” (when there is no corruption, there is no poverty). Following his win, the administration initiated reforms in government that focused on improving financial management, budget transparency, government procurement, and local government transparency. Key among these was in 2011 when the Philippines became one of the founding partners of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), which aimed to provide an international platform for domestic reformers committed to making their governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens.

As an OGP partner, the country is required to come up with OGP Action Plans that cover a two year period. The stated goal of the Philippines’ 2012 OGP Action Plan was creating a “single portal of information” that complies with basic open data standards. In the 2013-2015 OGP Action Plan, the government committed to “provide more accessible government data in a single portal and open format.” The 2015-2017 Action Plan continued this by committing to pro-actively release government data in open formats through the Open Data portal.

The Philippine OGP Action Plan was managed by the Cabinet Cluster on Good Governance and  Anti-Corruption, one of the thematic clusters established during the term of then President Benigno Aquino III. The Open Data Policy was managed by the Open Data Philippines (ODP) Task Force, which comprised representatives from the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson (OPS), Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO), and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

In 2013, the idea of an open data program was introduced by the World Bank to senior officials from the Office of the President of the Philippines. The concept was positively received because its inherent value for transparency and public engagement was aligned with the political priorities of the Aquino administration. The initiative was also recognized as a low-hanging fruit and a tangible expression of the government's commitment to good and open governance. Further, the novel idea of open data was leveraged to package and reframe the government's numerous transparency initiatives, especially those heavy on data sets.

This case study explores the introduction and implementation of open data by the Government of the Philippines. It first presents the government's enabling motivations and how the program was conceived, then looks into the introduction and implementation of open data in the Philippines using Anthony Giddens’ theory of structuration as the analytical lens. It focuses on the key policy, technology, data, and public engagement components of the ODP implementation, including significant milestones and critical issues. The study aims to show how these work streams and the program itself, as designed from the start, dealt with aligning the supply and demand sides of open data. It then assesses how effective open data has been as an ICT tool to achieve transparency and accountability and make significant shifts in meaning, power, and norms in the context of citizen engagement. At the same time, it looks at how such signification, domination, and legitimation – or the lack thereof – affected the effectiveness of the ODP as well.

The findings of the study show that although open data has huge potential to transform egovernance, such potential has not been maximized. One reason is the lack of appreciation of the relevance and usefulness of open data, both by the public and by some officers of key government agencies. This translates to the question of how relevant the published data is to these stakeholders, how it has been used and how it could have been used. The analysis shows that some of the barriers that prevent government agencies from embracing an overall culture of openness are buried and ingrained into organizational cultures and therefore require deepreaching institutional reforms.

Another key finding is that of limited involvement of the public in activities related to open data.

Although some forms of public consultation were conducted, participation was limited to a select group, largely because of a deliberate recalibration of the Open Data Task Force’s uptake strategy.