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Open government

More information, more say

A cycle strategy drawn up by cyclists for cyclists, and a youth strategy with which young people genuinely identify – two examples of open government. The Cabinet has adopted a new action plan to ensure that the actions of government are even more transparent and that more citizens are involved.

A "Come in, we're open" sign hangs in a shop window beside an open door.

Transparency and information: open government means that everyone should be able to understand the actions of government and that citizens should be involved

Photo: Bundesregierung

The federal ministries make a total of nine commitments under the second national action plan, including the following:

  • Young people are to be involved in decisions that affect them. To this end the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs intends to work with young people and civil society to produce a Youth Strategy. The aim is to put in place the best possible conditions to help young people master this challenging phase in their lives, with the motto "Politics for, with and by young people". 
  • Parts of the Federal Foreign Office’s political archives are to be digitised and made freely available online.
  • New legislation is to be more easily comprehensible and better. To this end, the Federal Chancellery will test possible alternative regulations with those affected before the legislation becomes law.

For the first time five contributions from individual federal states are included.

Today, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein are already pointing the way forward to open government with projects in the field of open data, to improve existing digital platforms for extensive citizen participation and the use of open source software.

What is open government?

The goal of the concept of open government is to make the actions of government and the administration more open, transparent, participatory and cooperative. Information should be freely available and citizens actively involved in the actions of government. Administrative measures should be easily understood and the consequences of decisions should be rendered visible. At the same time citizens should be involved in decision-making, and in implementing and evaluating state measures.

"At this time of technological transformation, caused largely by digitalisation, as the world moves closer and closer together, as we face major challenges [...] it is vitally important for governments to act transparently and for citizens to have access to information about as many interconnected contexts as possible," stressed Chancellor Angela Merkel in her video podcast.

Essentially, open government is about politicians and society cooperating more closely. This close cooperation offers an opportunity to harness the expertise and the knowledge of citizens to better resolve urgent problems. At the same time open government can help raise the interest of the general public in politics. 

What is the political importance of open government?

"Participation, transparency and cooperation are the basic pillars on which our democracy rests, and they are indispensable for living and working together successfully within our society. The many complex challenges of our time call for special joint efforts and for us to take innovative approaches in our efforts to identify solutions," said Angela Merkel.  

At the start of October, Germany will become a member of the steering committee of the Open Government Partnership meaning that it will assume a more proactive role at international level too. In a letter of application, Helge Braun, Head of the Federal Chancellery, laid out Germany’s ambitions as follows, "We want to learn from the pioneering role of others and take this as the yardstick against which we will be measured."

Open government in practice

While the term "open government" is still relatively unknown in Germany, the realisation of the concept has already been tested in places:

  • When the Third National Cycle Plan was drawn up, as many citizens as possible were involved alongside the experts, especially active cyclists. 
  • All administrative services are to be available online by 2022. To make this as user-friendly as possible, the German government has already set up what it terms digitalisation laboratories, where citizens and politicians can test various online administrative services, such as housing allowance, parental allowance and student loans. Almost 30 of these laboratories currently exist.
  • In the pilot project "Smarte LandRegion" too, citizen participation and engagement is crucial. Politicians and civil society are working together to develop digital applications to improve the everyday lives of people living in rural areas. 

Open government at the Federal Press Office

What do citizens think of the work of the German government and planned political measures? This is a question that the Federal Press Office explores regularly in cooperation with opinion research institutes. The results are used by the German government as decision-making aids and are available online free of charge to anyone who is interested. For technical reasons and because of data protection provisions you need to log in free of charge to download the data sets. 


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