The term ‘Open Government’ reflects a trend across jurisdictions and levels of government, in response to public expectations, to become more transparent, accountable and responsive to their citizens. Governments are recognizing that true democracy involves working with citizens and stakeholders, not just for them. Open governments across Canada acknowledge and benefit from the input, knowledge and expertise that citizens can contribute to the operations and decision-making of government.
Successful Open Governments use innovative activities, approaches and strategies to better connect citizens and stakeholders to their governments, which in turn lead to increased knowledge-sharing, innovation, collaboration and a more engaged and involved public to ultimately support and enable the development of better policies, decisions, programs and services.
In the NWT, Open Government is a key component of a broader government culture that recognizes the public’s right to access data and information (with appropriate exceptions for privacy and security considerations), and to engage with the government on matters that affect them. In the Mandate of the Government of the Northwest Territories, 2016-2019, the GNWT made a number of commitments to increase transparency and accountability, including the development of an Open Government Policy. Responsibility for advancing these commitments was assigned to the Minister Responsible for Public Engagement and Transparency, a portfolio created for the first time in the 18th Legislative Assembly and held by the Honourable Louis Sebert.
As part of the work to develop the Open Government policy, the Minister conducted a series of public engagement meetings across the territory between December 2016 and May 2017, connecting with residents to hear from them about their understanding, priorities and concerns related to Open Government.
Fifteen public sessions were held in 13 communities across the Northwest Territories, and included targeted sessions for selected stakeholders, including media and NGOs, held in Yellowknife. Written submissions on the Open Government Policy were also accepted during the process. A “What We Heard” report on the public engagement on Open Government was tabled during the fall 2017 legislative session.
An Open Government Policy was developed based on the results of the engagement, input from GNWT departments, research on Open Government initiatives in other jurisdictions, and feedback from the Standing Committee on Government Operations. The Open Government Policy (11.54) was publicly released in March 2018.
The Open Government Policy signals the GNWT’s intention to take steps increase openness, transparency and accountability by establishing directives and guidelines that will improve and standardize the way government shares information and data and engages with the public. The Open Government Policy sets out actions and provides a forum for departments to work together to advance the GNWT’s commitment to the principles of Open Government in three key areas:
- The release of government-held information, such as information about government programs, publications, activities and spending (Open Information)
- The release of government-held data, such as datasets, facts, figures or statistics (Open Data)
- Meaningful engagement of residents, communities and organizations in government decision-making processes (Open Dialogue)