Open Government Partnership
Openness, Transparency, and Covid-19
Covid-19 has had a huge impact on how the Scottish Government is working. The vast majority of Civil Servants are now working from home, and the whole focus of the organisation has shifted. Staff have moved to work on high priority areas, with whole new teams being created almost overnight. Non-critical work has been put on hold, and everyone is focussed on responding to the current crisis.
For some, that’s through providing the high-quality analysis and advice underpinning Ministers’ decisions. For others, it’s working with partner organisations on one of the new streams of funding which have been rolled out. Across the board, the focus is on keeping the public safe as we make our way through this pandemic. We’re working collaboratively to find our way towards a new normal.
How Open Government is adapting
For Open Government in Scotland, this unprecedented shift in priorities has had inevitable knock-on effects on our action plan. With resources redeployed, it’s likely we will not quite meet some of the milestones set out in out 2018-2020 action plan within their original timescales.
Additionally, we were due to start the co-creation process for our next Action Plan around this time. We would have been reaching out to people and organisations across Scotland to understand their priorities, and working with them to design the commitments in our next plan. Being unable to hold in-person events to have these discussions would be a huge disadvantage. It would really limit our ability to accurately reflect the people’s priorities in our commitments.
For these reasons, we’ve taken advantage of the offer made by the Open Government Partnership to extend delivery of this Action Plan by 6 months, to February 2021. We’ll then work with you to design our next plan from February – August 2021.
How we’re staying on track
This delay does not mean that our commitment to Open Government principles is on hold. In the Framework for Decision Making published last month, the First Minister reaffirmed that “our guiding values should be kindness, compassion, openness and transparency”.
A recent collaborative effort between the Government and Civil Society Leads on our Open Data commitment has led to a large amount of Covid-19 data being published in Open Data format. This was a fantastic example of how the partnership between Civil Society and Government can function really effectively even as we face new challenges. Civil Society have been hugely helpful and supportive as Government raced to improve on processes implemented quickly which didn’t quite match up to the standards we set for ourselves.
As part of the Scottish Government’s commitment to an open public discussion about potential changes to restrictions, the Digital Engagement team recently ran a Dialogue Challenge, providing the opportunity for the people of Scotland to have their say on how we should move forward towards a new normal. The team shared insights on this over on their blog. This challenge was just the first stage in a broader plan to ensure that we listen to the public and use what we hear, alongside the best evidence, to plan our next steps.
These are just some of the ways that we’re continuing to keep openness, transparency and participation at the heart of our work. The Open Government team remain committed to promoting these principles across Government. You can follow our Twitter to keep an eye on what we’re up to.