I presented and participated in a panel at the Open Forum Europe Summit 2010 last week. There was a healthy turnout, no doubt helped in no small part by the presence of Neelie Kroes (Vice President of the European Commission, and Commissioner for the Digital Agenda) providing the opening keynote – although well known in the past, of course, for various anti-competition actions against certain large corporations ….

Anyhow, the topic was “Delivering truly open e-government and digital citizenship”. Specifically, we were asked to look at how governments should respond; how accessibility and privacy can be maintained; and, in particular, what characterizes success and failure in this field? After so many years of planning and implementing major IT change programmes in both private and public sectors, there was much for me to talk about. All too often some people seem to think a published policy is an end in itself. It is not. It’s the practical implementation that matters. And that is often where the skills and experience are sadly lacking.

The Chair was Trond Arne Undheim (Chair OFE Strategy Group) and the partipants were Professor Nigel Shadbolt (University of Southampton and Policy Advisor UK Government), Thomas Vinje (Partner Clifford Chance, Brussels), Michael Karasick (VP Technology and Strategy, IBM), myself (aka Jerry Fishenden, Co-Founder and Director of the Centre for Technology Policy Research) and Peter Strickx (CTO, FEDICT, Belgium).

I was impressed with Neelie Kroes and her team. There was a genuine passion and commitment to the open government agenda and transparency at the very heart of the EU. And we know she is capable of delivering too. Up to now most of the change and momentum around open government and transparency has been driven from the ground up, with pioneering examples such as the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (with the open publication of payments to suppliers, for example).

As I pointed out, it would be good to see transparency applied to every aspect of the EC’s operations – after all, its accounts have not been signed off for 15 years now. That is unacceptable in any democratic, accountable organisation. We need more of the openness that is beginning to take root in the UK, with the open publication of COINS recently a significant milestone and a sign of real progress which now needs to be rapidly developed. The EC should lead by example. Not with rhetoric, but with pactical, real changes on the ground.

As our recent report made clear, “open government” is an idea whose time has come. But we all need to work hard to ensure it is delivered, not just spoken about.

Hopefully all the slides will be available soon. But in the meantime, here’s a copy on Slideshare of mine. There are also some interesting tweets and links on twitter – have a look for #ofesummit.

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