Making public all administration information to promote the citizens’ right to know government business
Inadequacies in citizens’ access to administration information.
With the advent of the information age, Seoul citizens have increasingly demanded that their municipal government be more transparent in its execution of public policies, making transparent administration an important social issue. Despite the growing demand, however, the citizens found it still challenging to access administration information: knowing where to look for public information was not easy, and getting the right information, if available at all, took a great deal of time and effort. Moreover, finding the right information at the right time remained all the more difficult, forfew“information counters” that were available were scattered around, hindering the citizens’ right to know government business. Needlessly to say, the blind and other underprivileged classes found accessing policy information very daunting.
Passive response to requests for public information and increasing social costs as a result.
Prior to the adaption of the “Open Government 2.0” policy, administration information was made public only upon request, a traditionlong held the City; after making requests for information, the citizens had to wait, on average, 6.5 days, or anywhere between a minimum three days and up to 30 days. Even after long waits, they often were told that the information requested was not available for public use. As such, accessing administration information was not only a time-consuming but also patience-testing effort, tuning into a vicious cycle of escalating socialconflicts and mounting costs.
Low transparency due to lack of citizen participation.
As the Seoul municipal government grew in scale and complexity, the involvement of its citizens in municipal administration gradually became a formality and, as a result, the citizens, the rightful owner of sovereignty, were increasingly treated asa passive recipient of public service. In particular, municipal information was disclosed on a passive basis, reaching only a small number of citizens. Knowing next to nothing about their City’s business, most Seoul citizens could not take part in the administration of the City; as people paid lesser and lesser attention, transparency and responsibility in the way the City was governed remained distant dreams, rendering municipal policies hardly public-minded and thus affecting the citizens to trust the City less and less. This growing skepticism was clearly reflected in the 2012 survey, conducted by the Anti-corruption & Civil Rights Commission of Korea, of people’s opinions on government transparency, in which Seoul was ranked 12th among the 16 local governments listed.
“Nude Project” by the mayor of Seoul.
Mayor Park Won-soon, inaugurated in 2011 as the Mayor of Seoul, advocated ““Nude Project”, a new policy direction centering on transparent information disclosure, based on the experience he had accumulated from his years-long NGO activities. Based on the core message that all public information must be returned to citizens as their rightful asset, the Open Government 2.0 policy makes it a law to disclose all administration information to the public except for that legally classified, with the intention of guaranteeing transparency and responsibility in the way the City is governed.
Improving access to administration information through construction of “Seoul Open Data Plaza”.
The city of Seoul has started implementing the Open Government 2.0 policy by developing “Seoul Open Data Plaza”, an online portal through which people can obtainalladministration information the City produces, in an attempt to make the information available to the public 24/7 at a few strokes of keyboard. Seoul Open Data Plazadisplays municipal information deemed interesting to the public up front on the homepage, features a comprehensive site map that is easy to navigate, and has a powerful search engine that allows users to search for information in diverse formats. Constructed to be compatible with not only personal computers but smartphones and tablet PCs as well, the portal has virtually abridged the gap between public information and their rightful owners.
Active and transparent information disclosure through innovation of the organizational culture.
In order to make the passive practice of disclosing public information into a proactive one, the city of Seoul took the following steps andbrought about a radical change in its organizational culture: first, the City established a comprehensive manual statingwhich information should be disclosed and which to be protect,encouraging its employees to disclose administration information they produce on their own; second, by inviting experts and organizing conferences some 130 times, the City sought to create a governance involving both citizens and City officials, changing its close-minded organizational culture into a flexible and open-minded one.
Creativity and Innovation
Transforming the information disclosure paradigm from the supplier to consumer perspective.
Prior to the adoption of the Open Government 2.0 policy, various agencies of the Seoul municipal government released information only after weighing the merit of information requests with their own criteria. To eliminate such a practice of applying self-serving rules, the city of Seoul took a bold step by constructing and implementing a system that automatically release administration information as is produced. The system reduces the time and cost involved in the information release process of the past and vastlyimproved the quality of the lives of citizens in need of public information.
Helping citizens better understand the context of City policies by releasinginformation in link with related documents.
The Seoul Open Data Plazaweb service offers not only approved documents but also a variety of such information relevant to citizens as budget and financial statements, various records, press releases, various statistic data, all to help citizens better understand the context of policies the City implements. By helping its citizen better understand its administrative attempts through provision of policy context, the City has been able to improve its citizens’ understanding and acceptance of municipal policies, thereby not only gaining more of their trust but also laying the ground for innovative communication.
Applying policies for expanding the use of public information.
To help disseminate public information, the web service also allows source code downloads as well as posting comments, enabling people to easily display the City’s public information of their choice in a view format at their websites or blogs.Moreover, by offering the trackback function as available in blogs, the service allows people to produce contents using information on the website andlinkthem to the information. By expandingthe trackback and other functions of the site, the City has helped spread public information to various pockets of society.
Execution and Implementation
Formulating an “information-oriented strategic plan” to construct an automatic information release system.
To proactively release its administration information, the city of Seoulhas formulated a strategic plan for information disclosure consisting of the following three steps: preparing a strategy for administration information release service, constructing an automatic information release system, and executing citizens-oriented public information release service.
Constructing the world’s first automatic information release system.
The project of upgrading theSeoul Open Data Plazaweb serviceand constructing adocuments release system was completed through convening of advisory conferences five times during which commencement, mid-term, and completion reports were made. During the project duration, the information release service commenced in two different stages: On October 28, 2013, the service began, initially releasing approved documents signed by division heads and higher-ups, followed by a complete release on March 1, 2014, of documents approved by departmental managers and higher-ups. The main reasonbehind the incremental releases of documents was to minimize trials and errors anticipated in the implementation of Korea’s first system automatically releasing municipal documentsupon production.
Ensuring successful implementation of the system.
During the initial phase of the service, two hundred some documents signed by division heads and higher-ups were released, inadvertently including classified ones, which created quite a bit of confusion among City officials. To eliminate further misgivings and minimize system errors, the service was put on holdfor 10 days, during which City employees received training on identifying classified or personal information in the documents they handle.
Major steps taken towards proactive release of administration information.
Oct. ’11: Open Government 2.0 Policy promulgated
Nov. ’11 ~ May ’12: Advisory Conferences of Experts for Open Government 2.0 convened (11 times).
Feb. ~ May ’12: Innovating the organizational culture to promote proactive release of information .
May ’12: Ordinance on releaseof administration information revised in line with the open government policy.
Aug. ’12: General execution plan established titled “Release, Share, and Communicate through Open Government 2.0”.
Jan. ~ May ’13: Information-oriented strategic plan established.
Feb. ’14: Experts consulted and invited to conferences (130 some times) on matters related to information release and the information web service.
June ’13 ~ Feb. ’14: Construction of an automatic information release system (Seoul Open Data Plaza, documents release system) began.
Aug. 1, ’13: Ordinance on release of administration information completely revised.
Jan. 1~ 12,’14: the document release system and the Seoul Open Data Plaza web site vetted.
Jan. 1, ’14: Administration Information All-out Release Service launched.
Stakeholders and participants
Conferring with citizen groups demanding transparent information release.
Demand for information release had been around for many years, mainly by groups of citizens on the fringe of main society. They had been active in Transparency International’s general assemblies, International Anti Corruption Conference, and other events demanding transparency in public information, strenuously striving to secure a citizen right to know that would conform to the international standard. The level of transparency they demanded from the City in its administrationand the extent they wanted it to go in combating corruption were higher and farther than those demanded of other local governments.
System managers each in charge of specific information category.
The city of Seoul’s administration information service is unique in that it makes contents of its internal information systems, including documents approved by its manager-level officials and higher-ups, accessible to the pubic through use of a regular Internet service. In order to make specific types of information in its internal systems readily available to the public, the City has constructed an information release governance in which the manager of each department in charge of its internal information system is identified as major stakeholder and all the departments share the same goal under the vision of Nude Project as the Nude Project charter.
Involvement of experts in the area of publicizing information .
The city of Seoul sought and paid a great deal of attention to experts’ advice in order to launch Korea’s first public information release service that is free of usual trials and errors and high in stability and utility; from the initial strategic planning to actual operation stages, the City held a total of 130 some conferences seeking opinions of experts in the area of making information public. All major decisions related to construction of adocument release system and launching of the information web service were made based on opinions of experts who discussed among themselves and shared their independent views on the direction to be pursued in terms of policy innovation, service planning, and system architecture.
Communicating with the central government, regional governments, and affiliated organizations.
For formulation of policy direction for releasing information and creation of aninformation release service, the city of Seoulconferred not only with the central government but also with 25 regional autonomous governmentsand 17 affiliated organizations. As a result, a common understanding on the need for information release was formed and the central government launched “Government 3.0”, an information release project, which led to a sweeping change in the attitude of government organization towards releasing public information.
|Category||Seoul Open Data Plaza||Documents Releasing System|
|Software development||Storage server||Software development||Storage server|
|2013||710 million||232 million||423 million||99 million|
|2014||314 million||75 million||142 million||140 million|
(Unit: in KRW)
Using non-budgetary financial sources.
In developing the administration information release service, the city of Seoul sought to minimize costs by including short, mid, and long-term plans in the formulation of a strategic master plan for publicizing information and implementing them one by one. In developing the document release system, in particular, the City relied mostly on open source software, thereby being able to minimize the costs of purchasing or licensing commercial software. Moreover, by fully utilizing technical resources within itself and industry experts, the City was able to minimize trials and errors, and thereby, sunken costs.
Using global open source S/W and other technical resources.
In developing the system platform, the City used the world-renown Open-source software (OSS), the world-reliable CKAN and Drupal, and eGov Framework, developed by the central government. By using these software programs, the City was able to raise the economic feasibility and improve the reliabilityof the system, thus maximizing returns on investments made in the system.
Relying on industry experts for advice.
As the administration information release serviceinvolves not only information publication but also web architecture design and archive management among many other technical issues, human resources experienced in diverse IT sectors became crucial to success of the service. Accordingly, the City created a project unit, appointed a project manager, formed a task force, and invited as official task force adviser a number of professionals and experts in IT and other fields related to information release service, with the intention of minimizing trials and errors.
For smooth policy formation and work process, experts in the fields of information publication, records and archives, and administration, were actively involved from the beginning of the project; during the strategic planning stage, a Ph.D. in communication played the role of project manager; the task force, comprising experts in web planning, design, and development, and headed by an IT specialist. In addition, a certified privacy protection general (CPPG) was involved with the task of minimizing the number of inadvertent releases of personal information during initial launch of the service. In short, by involving experts of various fields in the project from the very beginning, the City was able to develop and successfully launch its information release service.
From passive and defensive minimal release to maximum transparent release of negative method.
The information release service reflects a sweeping policy change: within a couple years, the City has replaced the decades-old practice of withholding as much administration information as possible with a proactive and transparent system publicizing all information with exceptions specified by law, in an effort to honor the citizens’ right to know government business. As a result, Seoul citizens, fully informed of municipal undertakings, can now take an active part in formulation of policies of their interest. Moreover, the active participation of the citizens in the administration of the City has resulted in outcomes that are both economically viable and socially commendable. For example, a “Owl Bus” service serving less-commercialized routes was developed with citizen inputs and through an in-depth analysis of data from phone and taxi companies as well as the administration information of the City. By finding out where, when, and how many people called for or used taxi service in late hours, the City was able to identify routes that were not served by public bus companies yet of high foot traffic to justify their commercial viabilities. Another example is an app developed, based on popular citizen requests,to keeps track of the schedules and current locations of public buses in Seoul and its vicinity.
Comprehensive information publication through use of the latest in IT technology.
The City has constructed a process that automatically collects and publishes via the Internetnon-classified administration information in its internal systems, in an effort to transform its practice of releasing public information through use of manual uploads into a proactive and automatic process. All documents produced are linked with other related documents through use of keyword mapping tools, and the information web service is constructed to support the latest in IT technology as to accommodate all visitors regardless of their devise platforms, thereby further promoting the “consumption” of public information. With the introduction of a sweeping service that automatically publishes most of the administration information they generate, City officials strive harder to build a more transparent and upright municipal government through renewed commitment to accountability, while citizens, now better informed of their City’s undertakings than ever, gradually develop a more caring sense of civic duty.
Reaching out to more citizens through clicks of the “ask question” button.
The Seoul Open Data Plaza web service has the “Ask Question” button for visitors wanting to know more or to send ideas about published administration information. Once a question is submitted, the questioner is promptly informed by an employee from a relevant department of the questionsubmitted and steps to be taken. Because all communication, from acknowledgement of the question to notification of final results, is carried out in diverse formats, from SMS to email, the questioner is given feedback in a transparent and speedy manner. Moreover, a channel has been established through which citizen opinions on published information can be heard, a clear contrast to the old practice whereby City employees used to release public information as deemed fit.
The city of Seoul uses diverse monitoring tools under the slogan, “What is not measured can’t be managed.”.
Using a QMS for successful management of the project.
For efficient management of its IT projects, the City has developed an internal project management method and operates a “Quality Management System (QMS)” to better manage the projects. The management method and the QMS have been employed in managing the information publishing service project, monitoring the progress of all stages, from the beginning of the project to ordering contracts, implementation and adjustment, to completion. In particular, the City was able to successfully complete the implementation and adjustment stage by breaking down the areas to be monitored and managed into schedule, boundary, reporting, conference, risk, personnel, quality, and change. Monitoring and managing the progress of the crucial stage in such a way has played a key role in the successful completion of the project.
Continued monitoring of the information publishing governance.
The most important aspect of the information release service has been information quality from the start. To better manage the quality of published information, the City has developed a monitoring tool of its own and through use of this tool, has been able to manage the whole process from the collection to publishing of information. In addition, through monitoring of information release by department, departments with an unusually low rate of release are identified and given a special guidance includinga proprietary analysis of “classified” information and employee training on types of information that can be released. As a result of this internal policy intended to realize the release of appropriate information through accurate weighing of the nature of information available, the ratio of information released to the total amount produced by the City’s internal systems has been steadily improving since the launch of the service.
Using web log analysis and web master tools.
Releasing administration information through a web service, the Cityuses various web log analysis tools to keep track of the number of citizens visiting the service and analyze their use patterns, in an effort to reflect resultant data in its system upgrades. The status of visitors is analyzed in terms of numbers of visitors, of the pages visited, and of average hours visitors stay logged in. By analyzing the flows of visitors and thus better understanding how citizens “consume” information, the City seeks to improve the quality of the information release service.
Operating citizen groups monitoring information release.
The City also analyzes the effect of its information release service on society in general on a regular basis through employment of monitoring groups comprising citizens and retired City employees; in addition the City conducts email, phone, and online community surveys to gaugeits citizens’ levels of satisfaction, all in efforts to identify areas to improve and to reflect more diverse opinions in its policy making. Specifically, the City focuses on collecting citizens’ opinions on all aspects of the information release policy, from requesting information release to theSeoul Open Data Plazaweb service, and publishing administration information including approved documents and meeting minutes. Moreover, by inviting all of its municipal organizationsand affiliated institutions as well as autonomous districts in the municipality to evaluation councils on a regular basis, the City rewards outstanding performers of public information release and explores together ways to improve the quality of the information release service.
Overcoming the internal resistance to publishing information.
Building up a consensus within the municipal government in favor of linking the internal information systems to an automatic release service was the hardest part of the project. It has taken the City numerous internal discussions and consultations with industry experts to formulate a legal framework through which it can deal with, and thus win over the skeptics, such potential issues once the service is launched as privacy invasion, press embargo imposition, loss of public confidence due to discrepancies between policies adopted and projects completed. Of these, the biggest challenge was convincing City employees to release the types of administration information that had been traditionally withheld from the public. Asthe popular saying goes, old habits die hard, but with a series of across-the-board awareness sessions through which City employees each went more than a dozen times on average, the ratio of once classified information released through the web service steadily climbed, reaching a level in 2014 worthy of the vision of “Open Government 2.0”.
Fear of exposing personal information as a consequence of information release.
Another thorny issue that emerged with the talk of proactive information release was the danger of personal information exposure. As the planned document releasing system posed the risk of including documents containing personal information, a double layers of process that filter out personal information have been built into the system. Since no system is perfect, however, when it comes to such a delicate process as identifying what constitutes as personal information, the City sought to cover the gap by educating its employees on types and cases of personal information exposure, guidelines to follow in identifying personal information, and masking techniques.
Forming consensus with the central government and other related organizations.
Governing a bustling metropolis like Seoul entails the production of somany types of information that its citizens often feel bewildered about the terminology associated to the information and knowing where to find what they need. To address these and other related problems, the City has produced PR videos explaining how to use the Seoul Open Data Plazaweb service and exhibited the videos at 100 some locations including subway cars, public buses, public service centers, and outdoor electronic screens. Webtoons, or Internet comics, also were produced with similar contents and distributed. Moreover, the City sought to convince the central government, a bigger source of public information, about the weight of the project and has established a general consensus on the potential utility of such a project.
Impact and sustainability
Satisfying the citizens’ right to know government business.
The two factors that have played the most crucial role in rendering the information release service successful overall are: a huge improvement in the quality of administration service and the materialization of the intended effect of publishing administration information, both results of the publishing of information in link with other related documents in the hopes of helping citizens understand the policy context of the information they seek. Prior to the introduction of the service, administration information also was made public, but most of it were fragmentary and limited in scope and content; the quality of the information made public was not a material for a high-quality administration service average Seoul citizens would demand. In contrast, the administration information the City now provides is almost incomparable in both scope and depth, not to mention volume. Moreover, through the information service, the City has bought about a paradigm shift in the way administration service is provided: by proactively releasing most of its public information through use of the world’s most advanced IT infrastructure for which it is known, the City has established a basis on which its citizens seek, consume, and share with others information that matters a great deal to their lifestyles and communities. Moreover, by showing that information is not only a reference but also knowledge better understood if read in connection with other related information, the City offers policy context and helps improve its citizens’ understanding of its governing. Such a transparent policy service also has made citizens to pay a closer attention to the City’s municipal business, highlighting the possibility that transparent information release can lead to improvements in the quality of public service.
Securing transparency and responsibility in public administration.
In administration information, the subject that tops the list of things to be transparent, are included not only approved documents but also such financial information as the budget explanations and daily and departmental expenditure accounts of all public projects. As departmental expenditure details reveal where and how much tax money is spent, the release of such information has created quiet a stir among citizen watch groups. In fact, it is customary in Korea that the details of the business accounts of high-level civil servants in many public institutions remain undisclosed; however, with the launch of the service releasing sensitive data in detail,the city of Seoul has became the first one to break the unspoken tradition, reapingthe unintended consequences of contributing to lowering the level of corruption and raising the degree of transparency within its administration. The heightened transparency has led to a noteworthy result: in the 2013 annual evaluation of Korea’s regional autonomous governments, the City topped the integrity category, a remarkable improvement compared with its 2012 performance of ranking 12th.
Creating social and economical values through sharing of public information.
The city of Seoul has vastly improved the economic value of public information it releases through the information service. According to itsreport made by an outside research institute, the total economical value of its public information was estimated to be KRW 2,156,2 million as of the end of 2012. Having started releasing its public information in earnest from 2013, the City expects the ratio of information released to reach anywhere between 80 to 90% by the end of 2014, which amounts over KRW 4 trillion. In another words, the economic value of information released by the City will have grown from near zero in the old days when almost no information of any value was published to KRW 4 trillion, contributing a great deal to the nation’s economic development. In fact, since the socially marginalized and the poor now have better access to public information than before, the overall social benefit will be many times bigger. What’s more, academic researchers, business men, entrepreneurs and others can now slash their traditional costs of reprocessing information by tapping the City’s information service and, at the same time, generate new, value-added information based on the quality information the City stands by.
Reducing costs through independent formulation of SW development methodology
During the process of constructing its information releasing system, the City established its own SW development methodology in an effort to cut costs. A set of mathematical approaches to the methods, processes and techniques necessary to developing an information system, the SW development methodology the City has built was a cost-cutting measure as it helped the project team develop an information system that is excellent in stability and expandability. As the rightful owner of the methodology, the City is in a position to help other countries or governments develop information systems similar to its at an affordable cost through use of ODA and World Bank and other international funding vehicles.
Expanding information release in response to yearnings for transparent society.
Of late, few topics dominate the forums of discussion throughout the world as transparency. In the context of freedom of information, in particular, transparency has been an nonnegotiable topic for some time. As the topic finds more willing ears everywhere, people’s yearning for transparent societyhas reached a point of reconstructing systems in hopes of higher transparency, a result of a paradigm shift that extends beyond political and economical bounds. Accordingly, the EU, the US, Australia and other developed nations, increasingly aware of the value of transparency gained through opening of public information, are exploring diverse ways to open and make use of public information, a trend being followed by other nations as well in a competitive fashion.
Administration information release systems being benchmarked.
As “open government”, “transparent society”, and other related topics gain traction, an increasing amount of attention is being paid towards not only the city of Seoul but also other autonomous governments for any sign of development in their information release policies. With the attention being focused on public data, administration information, which is considered informal data, is as important as formal data; however, it also is a fact that the extent to which administration information has been published pales in comparison to that of formal data. In this context, the city of Seoul’s administration information release service brings transparent society closer to a reality, thereby being increasingly benchmarked as a paradigm of open government.
Being selected as an outstanding government project.
In August 2013 when construction of the information opening service was in full swing, Korea’s National Assemble passed a law that requires all public institutions to publish “original” documents, having central government agencies and regional autonomous governments scramble for ways to release information; and they soon turned to the city of Seoul for an answer when its information release service was introduced in October. As the City’s policy on information release had been selected as an outstanding case of “Government 3.0” and adopted by the central government, a stream of public officials soon followed visiting the City for interviews. Of note, the City’s document release system is viewed by many asa Panopticmedium from which citizen society can monitor government business without being noticed. Needless to say, such a medium can go a long way towards helping reduce corruption, promote freedom of information, and enhance the efficiency of governments.
Regaining public confidence in governments through transparent release of information.
At the 2012 regularexecutive council, Mayor Park Won-soon of Seoul stated“In principle, all documents should be released to the public the moment they are produced, and though policy failure may be excusable, the failure to release information is not…”“Policies are subject to criticism as they are meant to be rectified through reflection of public opinions, but how would you know what to correct if no information is released all all about them?” This part of Mayor Park’s speech summarizes the City’s policy direction on information release, meaning release of administration information makes communication with citizens possible, and only through communication can a policy matures towards a goal beneficial to all.
As mentioned earlier, the City suffered the indignity of ranking 12th in the 2012 evaluation of the integrity of regional autonomous governments; but because it pushed forward its policy of improving transparency in municipal governing, which includes the launch of Korea’s first public information release service, all done in consultation with citizen groups and experts from diverse fields, the Cityreaped the honor of ranking 1st in the 2013 evaluation. The remarkable improvement in itsintegrityin the eyes of the public can be attributed to the depth as well as scope of the information released as part of “Nude Project: detailed compilations and expenditure accounts of municipal projects exceeding2,700 in number. Although some have criticized it as a Panoptic revelation, that the information service has contributed to higher transparency and integrity by shedding light on what had traditionally been kept in the shade has grown into a big pride for the City.
A unique information release policy contributing to building a creative economy.
The City’s information release service shows that its Open Government is all aboutcommunicating and cooperating not only with the 1% that leads economic growth but also with the remaining 99% whose voices are spurting forth through the online community. As information increasingly leads to power in the 21st century knowledge-based society, the City will accelerate the pace at which it helps the socially marginalized secure more basic rights and thus economic opportunities by returning all administration information to its rightfulowners. Promoting communication and cooperation between the City and its citizens on the subject of developing a unique and innovative information release policy, the All-out Administration Information Release service is certainly a catalyst not only to the City’s becoming of a truly open government but also to its growth into the world’s leading metropolis contributing to building a creative economy by promoting dialogue and earning support from citizens for innovative and unique information release policies based on the pluralistic democratic base.