If you aren’t clear about what you mean in any discussion you haven’t got much chance of staying on track. Think about the phrase “open government”. Here are seven possible interpretations (there are probably more, do add them) which can all take an “open government” discussion in a different direction:
1. Is it open democracy as process? – being transparent about the progress of legislation and policy as it’s developed. Applies to both ministerial and civil service processes!
2. Is it the promotion of the engagement of people with the democratic process? (without this it’s just the same few commentators talking to each other) – this must be a dynamic feature, not a static one: the business of democracy has to become increasingly attractive in and of itself.
3. Is it openness to scrutiny – MPs expenses and so on? Has some cross-over with 1. but the motivations driving ‘openness’ can be quite different…
4. Is it a style of government? – this one is purely political in nature and tone: being open and honest with the public about what the real issues are, how severe they are, etc. (openness to challenge and ongoing discussion falls within this category).
5. Is it equality of access to suppliers? – as in “open procurement”… some aspects of open source (see below) satisfy this. [The ready confusion between open government, open data and open source still baffles me by the way – some of those doing it should really know better…]
6. Is it openness to collaboration and innovation? – other aspects of open source philosophy fulfil this – work can be shared and reused freely, and ideas taken on way beyond their original starting point or intention.
7. Is it functional accessibility? – are services ‘open’ in the sense of catering to all? Everything from basic provision to service packaging to technical adaptations meeting specific user limitations…
More on this after my piece at http://opengovevent.com today.