IDEAS Open Government Partnership Conference 2016 Report
Sunway Putra Hotel
Thursday, 20 October 2016
The coalition on Governance, Integrity, Accountability, and Transparency (GIAT) jointly organised the annual Open Government Partnership (OGP) Conference at Sunway Putra Hotel, Kuala Lumpur on 20th October 2016. GIAT is made up of the following organisations: Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M), Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4), Sinar Project, and Friends of Kota Damansara (FoKD).
The full day event was attended by over 100 delegates, including representatives from the US Embassy and the Embassy of Japan. This conference featured three separate panel sessions which revolved around the overarching theme “Access to Information: the Way Forward for Accountable Governance”.
The OGP is a multilateral initiative that aims to secure commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. Currently there are 70 OGP participating countries, however, Malaysia is still not a member of OGP.
The conference started with a welcome address by IDEAS founding President Tunku Zain Al-’Abidin ibni Tuanku Muhriz. This was followed by the keynote speech delivered by Her Excellency the British High Commissioner Victoria Treadell.
In her speech, H.E. Victoria Treadell spoke about “How Freedom of Information Spurred Innovation & Increased Government Accountability in the UK.” She stressed the importance of having the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) to combat corruption in the UK civil service. A short but pertinent example given was the UK’s policies on gifts. UK public officials have to register all gifts and donations worth over GBP75 – and this information is made accessible to the public via FOI.
H.E. Victoria Treadell delivering her keynote address
Panel Session 1: “Access to Information – Freedom of Information and Open Data.”
This panel session featured YB Hannah Yeoh, Selangor State Legislative Assembly Speaker; Professor Dato’ Dr. Halimah Badioze Zaman, Director of Institute of Visual Informatics, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM); and Michael Canares, Regional Research Manager at Open Data Labs Jakarta. The session was moderated by Tricia Yeoh, Chief Operating Officer of IDEAS.
YB Hannah Yeoh shared the Selangor government’s experience in pushing legislation like freedom of information and asset declaration. Since the FOI Enactment was passed on 1 April 2011 there have been only 193 applications for FOI in the state. This reflected to her that the public is not as interested in FOI as much as lawyers and businessmen. YB Hannah restated the state government’s commitment in pursuing open government. The state government would continue to convert its documents into open data format (e.g. from PDF to excel) so that the public, especially researchers, can make full use of the data.
OGP Session 1: Access to Information – Freedom of information and Open Data
Dr. Halimah spoke about society’s progress from a primitive to a smart society. She emphasised that, apart from infrastructure, accessibility and sharing of data is key in creating a smart society. She concluded by recommending that the government establish a national data analytics centre in Malaysia to promote the use of data made available through FOI.
Michael Canares opined that government data is owned by citizens, created by citizens, and exists for the citizens. He said that data is only considered open if the following criteria are fulfilled – it is accessible, machine-readable and reusable.
Open data can help increase transparency, enhance accountability of the government as well as encourage citizen participation in a country. He suggested that the Malaysian government prioritise releasing data sets, publishing them online and offline, as well as promoting access and the usage of this data.
Panel Session 2: “How can Malaysia Benefit from Freedom of Information and Open Data?”
The second panel session included four panelists: YB Steven Sim, Member of Parliament for Bukit Mertajam; Siti Altaf Deviyanti Ismail; Social Policy Specialist at UNICEF; Robert Boothe from the World Bank and Alan Kirupakaran from the Prime Minister’s Office. This session was moderated by Cynthia Gabriel, Executive Director of C4.
YB Steven began with success stories of the #BetterPenang app, a citizen-led initiative used to lodge complaints to the two local councils in Penang. He said that the #BetterPenang app has cut short the response time to complaints and simplified the process. YB Steven showed that in 2015, the app received 6,309 complaints with 6,248 or 99.03% of the complaints solved by the local councils.
Siti Altaf Deviyati Ismail took the floor next. She talked about the importance of data, especially disaggregated data, numerical and non-numerical information collected from multiple sources compiled into aggregate data, for making better policies. She elaborated on how aggregated data and national averages would not be able to identify issues on-the-ground. She noted that disaggregated data will unmask discrepancies allowing for more effective and targeted policies. She concluded that the way forward is to forge strategic partnerships that allow more individuals and organisations to access government data.
OGP Session 2: How can Malaysia Benefit from Freedom of Information and – and Open Data
Robert Boothe, from the World Bank stressed that data is the foundation for innovative decision-making. To him, “data is the lifeblood of decision making and the raw material for accountability.” He also spoke about how digital technologies can affect public service delivery by improving inclusion, efficiency and innovation. Robert cited the example of the welfare payment card in South Africa to show that technologies can reduce the barriers between public and the government.
Lastly, Alan Kirupakaran spoke about a pilot project in Subang Jaya that gives the local community the power to monitor the local council. The project is a collaborative effort between Senator Paul Low’s office, The Malaysian Institute of Integrity and the local council. The idea behind the project is to empower communities with access to key information such as contract details given out by the local council, which will enable them to directly monitor projects taken up by their respective local councils.
Panel Session 3 “Beyond Government – How Does Freedom of Information Benefit You, Me, and the Everyday Joe?”
This session was moderated by IDEAS’ Senior Manager of External Relations, Azrul Mohd. Khalib. Panellists include Khairil Yusof from the Sinar Project; Jahabar Sadiq, former editor of The Malaysian Insider, Andrew Martin from the Big Community and Sandra Hanchard from Big Data Malaysia..
Khairil Yusof explained that legislative openness should constitute complete details of state representatives, e.g.. their CVs, attendance, motions, speeches, votes and also assets. He also noted the importance of the government in promoting transparency by making the annual budgets, expenditures and contracts awarded available online. He emphasised that, “When one wants to know about a government’s policies, don’t listen to what they say. Look at what is in the budget.”
OGP Session 3: Beyond Government – How Does Freedom of information – How Does Freedom of Information Benefit You, Me, and the Everyday Joe?
Jahabar Sadiq spoke next. He lamented that a lot of journalists do not know how to make full use of the data sets. Jahabar opined that journalists nowadays just want to produce eye-catching headlines for the newspaper and news portal. He emphasised that journalists should appreciate data and use the data to ask the right questions.
Andrew Martin warned that data can be abused too by some people. He noted that data can be (mis)used to paint any picture a person may want it to. Andrew Martin stressed that besides Sinapore, most of the data in ASEAN countries are incomplete, dirty (incomplete or eroneous data) and difficult to get a hold of.
The final speaker for this session was Sandra Hanchard. She said that the biggest challenge for open data is the lack of human resources able to analyse data. She opined that open data is no longer just about access, but it is increasingly about skillful participation. Sandra ended by suggesting that the government should take measures to empower individuals with data skills and also make data free and accessible to all.
Participants at the OGP Conference 2016
The Auditor-General of Malaysia, Tan Sri Ambrin Buang gave the closing speech. In his speech, Tan Sri Ambrin said that since 2014 his department had been tasked to follow-up on corrective measures to address shortcomings identified in the Auditor-General’s Report. He spoke on how his department consistently reviewed the shortcomings and tracked their progress. They also ensured that punitive measures were taken through the Audit Dashboard. He added that the MACC and police also conducted their own investigations if there were cases of fraud and corruption.
The conference concluded with brief closing remarks by IDEAS Chief Executive, Wan Saiful Wan Jan at 4.30pm.
Refreshments will be served.
YAM Tunku Zain Al-’Abidin Tuanku Muhriz, IDEAS President
Keynote Address 1
How Freedom of Information Spurred Innovation & Increased Government Accountability in the United Kingdom
H.E. Victoria Treadell, High Commissioner, British High Commission
|10.00-11.30am||First Session: Access to Information – Freedom of Information and Open Data
Freedom of Information and Open Data as tools in Promoting OGP Values of Transparency, Accountability, and Civic Participation
· YB Hannah Yeoh, Selangor State Legislative Assembly Speaker
· Prof. Dato’ Dr. Halimah Badioze Zaman, Director, Institute of Visual Informatics, UKM
· Michael Canares, Regional Research Manager, Southeast Asia Open Data Lab
|11.30-1.00pm||Second Session: How can Malaysia Benefit from Freedom of Information and Open Data?
Access to Information as an Indicator of Accountable Governance
How Information and Data can Contribute to Improved Public Services?
· YB Steven Sim, Member of Parliament, Penang (Democratic Action Party)
· Siti Altaf Deviyanti Ismail, Social Policy Specialist,UNICEF
· Robert Boothe, Public Sector Specialist, World Bank
· Alan Kirupakaran, Governance Officer, Prime Minister’s Office
|2.00-3.30pm||Third Session: Beyond Government – How Does Freedom of Information Benefit You, Me and the Everyday Joe?
This session will be about how open data is needed and can be utilised by researchers, NGOs, media and business.
· Khairil Yusoff, Coordinator, Sinar Project
· Jahabar Sadiq, Former Editor, The Malaysian Insider
· Dr Sandra Hanchard, Researcher, Big Data Malaysia
· Andrew Martin, Big Community
Closing speech by Tan Sri Ambrin Buang, Auditor General of Malaysia
Closing Remarks by Wan Saiful Wan Jan, Chief Executive Officer, IDEAS
|4pm||End of Session|
H.E Victoria Treadell currently serves as the British High Commissioner to Malaysia. She has held this post since the 21 October 2014. This came after she served as the British High Commissioner to New Zealand for four years. She was appointed a Member of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO) in 1989 and was made a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (CMG) in 2010. In 2009 she won the Public Sector Award in the UK’s prestigious Asian Women of Achievement Awards.
Tan Sri Ambrin Buang is the current Auditor General of Malaysia. He has held several positions in the government and public service such as the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Education, Minister for Economic Affairs and Deputy Head of Mission at the Malaysian Mission in Tokyo, Japan and State Secretary of the Selangor State Government. He was also the Senior General Manager for Kuala Lumpur International Airport Berhad from April 1995 to February 1999.
YB Hannah Yeoh is the current Speaker Selangor State Assembly and is member of the Democratic Action Party. YB Hannah graduated from the University of Tasmania, Australia degree in law. Her career in politics began in 2008 when she won the N31 Subang Jaya State Seat. YB Hannah went on to be re-elected for the Subang Jaya in 13th General Election. On 21 June 2013, Hannah Yeoh was elected and sworn in as the speaker for Selangor State Assembly, making her the youngest and first woman Speaker of any legislative assembly in the Malaysia.
Michael Canares is Managing Consultant at Step Up Consulting and is the Team Leader of the Open LGU Research Project. With more than ten years of research and development work experience, Michel Canares manages the Jakarta Lab’s projects that aim to increase citizen engagement with government and strengthening government efforts for inclusive governance through open data. Michael Canares has an M.Sc. in Development Studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science but also has a background in law and accountancy
Robert Boothe is a Public Sector Management Specialist in the World Bank’s Global Governance Practice. He focuses on issues related to public financial management, public sector governance and performance in the East Asia and Pacific region, where he has 7 years of experience. Prior to joining the World Bank, Robert held positions in both private and public sectors. Robert is a Canadian national, and holds degrees in economics and in development management from the University of Alberta and the London School of Economics.
Altaf Deviyati is currently the Social Policy Specialist for UNICEF, working in the area of Child Poverty, Nutrition and Public Finance for Children. Prior work experience include working with the Performance, Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) of the Prime Minister’s Department (Malaysia) , Penang Institute as well as other international orgainisations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
YB Steven Sim is a the Member of Parliament for Bukit Mertajam. He graduated from Universiti Malaya with a Bachelor of Computer Science and went on to complete the “Insights into Politics and Policy in Asia for Global Leaders” programme at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. YB Steven Sim is a Board Member of the Penang Institute, a public policy think-tank.
Alan Kirupakaran is currently a Governance Officer at the Office of Minister in Prime Minister’s Department. He has an extensive experience in I.T. industry as well as issues relating to anti-corruption and transparent governance. His previous position prior to joining the government was as Executive Director of Transparency Malaysia.
Khairil Yusof coordinates project implementations, funding, engagement and overall direction of Sinar Project. He works on open government and open parliament initiatives. He also helps conducts training to help build technical capacity for other civil society organizations. In the past, he used to worked on the International Open Source Network project as part of the UNDP Asia-Pacific Development Information Programme promoting adoption of open source, open standards and open content to developing countries in Asia-Pacific region. Has extensively worked with various government agencies, private sector and civil society for ICT for development issues.
Jahabar Sadiq was the chief executive officer and editor of The Malaysian Insider, Malaysia’s fastest growing news portal until it closed down on March 15, 2016, and has been a journalist in print, news wires, television, radio and internet since 1988. He was a senior producer with Reuters Television, the international news and information broadcast agency, from 1998 to 2009, interviewing world leaders, captains of industry and others from Afghanistan to East Timor. He had also had an earlier stint in Reuters as a political and economic news correspondent and was briefly a television producer in AP Television. He started his career in the New Straits Times where he underwent a six-months journalism course and spent a year in Business Times before joining Reuters Limited in 1994.