Open Statecraft for a Brave New World
Open government is the doctrine and governance approach which holds that the business of government and state administration should be opened at all levels to effective public scrutiny and oversight to improve capacity and legitimacy of collective action. It outlines a “brave new world” of doing governance. The discourse on the topic has focused on the technical aspects (open data) and the legitimatory aspects (e-participation) but has dangerously ignored the managerial aspects (open statecraft). In the following I argue, why we should put more emphasis on this concept.
In 2010 we are confronted with new policy and management approaches in the public sector like technologically mediated policy initiation and formulation (Obama’s Open Government Initiative), distributed intelligence gathering (the US intelligence communities Intellipedia), crowdsourcing of accountability (The Guardian’s British Parliament invoice scandal platform), or peer producing political campaigning (the Obama Campaign), and social media enhanced (twitter) revolutions (Iran). No government in 2010 can afford to not use these types of new public governance. Most governments today are confronted with several policy and administrative challenges (transparency, effectiveness, corruption, legitimacy, etc.) that can be addressed by an open value creation.
Open Value Chains that interface to experts, local knowledge, stakeholders, and crowds allow for new modes of organizing collective action in business, society, and government. Recent dramatic reductions of transaction costs in organizing collaboration have allowed for amazing advances in collective value production (think Wikipedia, Linux, or Ushahidi) and will transform our lifeworlds.
Open government introduces new logics of collective action that move beyond the “modern” core ideas of governance, which are based on institutional legitimation of processes and very restrictive information sharing (arcana imperii/state secrets, administrative secrets, business secrets, complex intellectual property rights regimes). This conceptualization of collective action as open value chains implies three important perspectives:
The technological perspective represented by the Open Data Movement. Open data is a philosophy and practice requiring that certain data be freely available to everyone, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control.
E-Participation is the use of information and communication technologies to broaden and deepen political participation by enabling citizens to connect with one another and with their elected representatives.
I propose the term open statecraft to introduce the managerial and strategic perspective, to open value creation. The term statecraft refers to the art of conducting state affairs, sometimes with sinister implication, as used by Macaulay (1855) in his Hist. Eng. xviii. IV. 163 A double treason, such as would have been thought a masterpiece of statecraft by the great Italian politicians of the fifteenth century. So open statecraft openly states the ambition of actors to utilize the logic of openness to achieve objectives. Anything else, would be insincere.
The core technologies of open value creation from a managerial perspective are the wiki (principle-based, user-generated platforms, with flexible moderation capacity), the forum (question driven user-generated knowledge platform), blogging (core message with feedback/discourse loop), social networks (such as Ning-communities or Facebook groups) and work flow management and visualization tools (Government resource planning, government process mapping tools, think SAP, Oracle, SugarCRM, etc.). Together they allow us to structure policy and administrative public value creation processes, by enhancing ideation (idea-generation), deliberation (commenting and discussion), collaboration (generating public values), and accountability (parsing data to hold government accountable).
In the discourse on open government the main focus has been on open data and new modes of participation, often without considering the political ramifications of these ideas. It sometimes even seems that the idea of thinking through the strategic, managerial, and political consequences of opening value chains is considered as untrue to the original idea of the concept or even “Machiavellian.” However, without the buy-in of political entrepreneurs that are able to structure open value creation processes, we will not get there. Utopianism without strategy spells disaster.
Therefore, we need to augment the technocratic ideas of open data and the democratic ideas of e-participation with the strategic, manegerial, or political perspective of open statecraft. Only if we offer a perspective that involves the power politics taking place in any institutional setting, can we realistically discuss and implement Open Government as a new form of collective action.