The ultimate aim of any human society should be to ensure the prosperity, freedom and fulfilment for all of its members. Our shared natural, economic and social resources are part of a common inheritance or ‘commonwealth’, therefore must be utilised in the best interests of all citizens. However, it is becoming more and more apparent that representative democracies around the world, including New Zealand’s, are not capable of fulfilling this objective. Our political systems are broken and are leading to gross wealth inequality, disenfranchisement and a failure to meet the basic needs of huge segments of society.
This article outlines what open government is, explains why it matters to New Zealand and how the country could benefit from it. Open government has its roots back to Aristotle, Socrates and the earliest flourishing of western democratic principles as well to Chinese antiquity. However, the modern concept emerged in enlightenment Europe with Sweden enacting the first Freedom of the Press legislation in 1766.
These key concepts of a new system of open government are described: open data, open innovation, collaborative democracy and collaborative budgeting. Contemporary examples cited are:
- Direct democracy in Switzerland
- Open data and open government in Taiwan
- Participatory budgeting at the city level in Porto Alegre, Brazil and national level in Portugal (voting by ATM)
- Democratic confederalism in the Middle East (Rojava, a self-governing territory comprising the three Kurdish-majority cantons of Northern Syria)
Concludes that New Zealand citizens need to ensure a sensible and accurate public discussion of open government issues occurs in both the political and media realms.