Is There a German Open Government Movement?

The short answer: Now there is. The long answer: it is a bit more complicated. The efforts coming from many areas in society to put pressure on the public sector to change, adopt new technologies, to open up and to engage its citizens, are fractured efforts. While some start adopting US-style web campaigning, setting up Facebook pages and asking their press secretaries to fill a Twitter account with the usual slogans, others are debating far-reaching changes in the democratic framework the country is rooted in – representative parliamentary democracy. In between are the techies who get excited about the possibilities that Open Data has to offer, the academics who would like to equate the potential of RSS feeds and Wikipedia to the invention of republicanism, and the activists, who will use anything they can get their hands on in order to reach more supporters, create public awareness or fight against corruption. If all that is what it means to have an Open Government “movement”, then Germany does have that. However, unlike in countries like the United States, the movement is neither a fairly homogeneous or monolithic block (and don’t nail me on that, I am oversimplifying merely to make a point) nor does it call itself Open Government movement. The term open government is in fact so rarely used, that many who are active in these efforts would probably use it to describe things that do not feature as prominently in the US discourse for example. At the same time, similar developments, grass roots pressure and certain societal and political developments have led to similar strategies, efforts and even business practices. And since much of all that is rooted in what is commonly referred to as the “web 2.0″, the prominent label here in Germany is “Government 2.0″, rather than Open Government. Elsewhere, I have talked about the reservations I have concerning the Gov 2.0 term, which I will not elaborate further at this moment. Interestingly enough however, as much as the “movement” is inspired by events across the big pond, and trends in IT, as much it is also possible to still shape the movement profoundly, and this website is – frankly – an effort to recalibrate, ponder, analyze, digest, question, enhance, strengthen, etc… the German Open Government Movement. At some point, I hope that this will actually be nomenclature used by its advocates.

To get this publication started, and having primarily outsiders in mind as the target audience, looking at Germany from the outside, without the necessary linguistic background to maybe read the relevant German-language channels, I want to point out three organizations that play a big role in Germany’s open government landscape. They are by no means the only ones, and their influence varies greatly, but this is only the first blog post.

The Open Data Network. An association that is focusing primarily on open data, blogging on the topic, organizing hack days and running app contests. The expertise of the ODN and its connections to international equivalents make them an authority in the area.

The Government 2.0 Network Germany. Born out of the Government 2.0 Camp Berlin 2009, this network consists of mainly Berlin-based volunteers interested in advancing the cause of gov 2.0. The main activity is the annual GovCamp, but they are branching out into regular meetings and smaller events.

The Internet & Society Collaboratory. The Internet and Society Collaboratory is an open think tank type expert panel, that intends to drive public debate around societal questions of the internet. Around its circle of academics and experts, they invite people from many areas for workshops on relevant topics, which result in publications. The Collaboratory’s “eternal beta” nature, and its high-profile backing are promising features.

Editor’s note: This blog post is very old, the information contained herein is outdated.

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