On the Road: Open Government Part 2 – Canadian Government Executive

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CGE BlogRichard Pietro
October 15, 2014

On the Road: Open Government Part 2

Click here for Part 1 of 4

Don’t be the big @$$hole

There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing Goliath trip and fall. That’s why media and malcontents love to jump on government whenever it falters.

…but, can you blame them?

Government comes off like some sort macho figure that can do it all by itself. Problem is that government – for the most part – has given us more than enough examples that shows it is either grossly incapable of responding quickly to the needs of people; Has misplaced its priorities when representing the Will of people; Or has proven to be incompetent in executing programs that will help people.

…and that’s why people are so cynical.  People see the government as some kind of arrogant prick that is too self-assured with its own abilities, but can’t back it up.

“Government has to admit to itself its own hubris, tuck their tail between their legs, and speak with actions rather than of words.”

Dr. Gregory House (from the TV Show House, M.D.) was such a prick. But he was respected because he was stellar physician, thus his arrogant, prickish behaviour was tolerated…even fostered.

Government is NOT Dr. Gregory House.

In order for government to truly be able to create an Open Government culture, it will have to adopt an attitude of humility. One that sets the expectation that “we are learning, we’ll make mistakes, and we need your help.”

And that is why adopting this collaborative culture is taking so long. It is difficult for anyone, much less a particularly overbearing, arrogant, institution that has taken advantage of its position, to admit their own hubris, tuck their tail between their legs, and speak with actions rather than words.

Now, I’m not suggesting that the execution of such an act of contrition be made via a public apology at a press conference on some Monday afternoon. That would be the WORST thing to do: More talk from a government we don’t trust.

What I am suggesting is that government should adopt a more humble attitude. One that understands it is OK to not have all the answers. One that understands it is OK to ask citizens for help. One that understands it is OK to make mistakes. And more importantly, one that understands the old ways of doing things are quickly becoming obsolete.

There are a few initiatives here and there that show government dabbing their toes in the Open Government water. Initiatives like Web Experience Toolkit, The city of Toronto’s mindmixer page, and Ontario’s approach to releasing data sets are perfect examples of what I mean.

…I just can’t wait until these examples become the norm, as opposed to the exception.


Richard PietroRichard Pietro considers himself as an Open Government Fanboy in an attempt to create Civic Engagement as Art. Richard’s Twitter handle is @richardpietro and you can learn more about his work at MyEinsteinJob.blogspot.ca.

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