City of Austin Chosen to Join International Open Government Partnership as Pioneer City

ARTICLE | Apr 15, 2016

The City of Austin is the only municipality in the United States chosen to participate in the Open Government Partnership’s new pilot program for regional governments worldwide to collaborate on innovations around transparency issues.

OGP is an international network of about 70 countries committed to empowering citizens and harnessing new technologies to strengthen open and inclusive governance. 

"It is an incredible honor for Austin to be the only U.S. city included in the Open Government Partnership pilot program,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said.  “Our City has a great track record of using technology to promote transparency, whether it's creating the open data portal and the online message board or holding open government symposia and civic hack-a-thons. It's exciting to think of what new technological innovations in open government might come from this."

Only seven other cities worldwide were selected for the program, including Paris, France; Madrid, Spain; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, Korea; Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tbilisi, Georgia; and Sekondi-Tarokadi, Ghana. 

Seven larger regional governments were also chosen, including Ontario, Canada; Scotland, United Kingdom; Bojonegoro, Indonesia; La Libertad, Peru; Egeyo-Marakwet County, Kenya; Jalisco, Mexico; and Kigoma, Tanzania.

To become a Pioneer City with OGP, Austin had to first distinguish itself by instituting open government measures such as those highlighted by Mayor Adler.  That process began several years ago when the City’s Law Department collaborated with State Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) and then-Attorney General Greg Abbott to amend the Texas Open Meetings Act to allow platforms for greater transparency.

“Our goal with the online message board legislation was to use technology to open up government deliberations to the people and make them more efficient by allowing people to communicate with each other in a public venue that wasn’t a traditional meeting,” Sen. Watson said.  “Now, our community has the opportunity to share with the world how to meld tech and transparency to make participatory government work.”

Austin’s innovations were featured nationally and internationally, which opened a path to selection by OGP as a Pioneer City.  Austin’s application was supported by community organizations including Leadership Austin, Open Austin, and VisionZeroATX, and was bolstered by resolutions recently passed by the Austin City Council.

“Transparency and open government have been a priority for me from the beginning, and we’ve made great strides,” said City Manager Marc A. Ott. “This reinforces that we’re heading in the right direction and creates new opportunities for partnership that will ultimately benefit every person that calls Austin home.”

As a part of this subnational government pilot program Austin will immediately begin to identify open government initiatives that can help solve City challenges.   Chief Innovation Officer Kerry O’Connor and the Law Department’s Open Government Division Chief Jerikay Gayle will lead the City’s participation.

In announcing Austin’s selection, OGP’s Chief Executive Sanjay Pradhan lauded the chosen cities’ programs as “some of the most interesting reform and innovation we’re seeing anywhere in the world. I am so excited about this wealth of interest in transforming people’s experience of their governments at a local level.”

For more information, please visit the City of Austin.

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