Step Up Consulting Services presented the result of its study “Opening the Gates: Will Open Data Initiatives Make Local Governments in the Philippines More Transparent?” or Open LGU Research Project in a Presentation and Validation Workshop held in the afternoon of February 25, 2014 at the MetroCentre Hotel and Convention Center. The research team, composed of Mr. Michael Canares, Ms. Mariejoe Narca and Ms. Jare Arawiran, presented to an audience of 40 representatives from different civil society groups and the government sector of the Province of Bohol, who were the identified stakeholders of Open Data, some of whom are among the respondents of the research.
The team presented its key findings highlighting, among others, that Bohol fully complies with the Full Disclosure Policy (FDP) of DILG by posting required governmental information in its website. Also, Bohol provides more information in its website about local governance affairs than what is required. For example, the province posts its Provincial Atlas, a collection of maps and other relevant information that is useful for decision-making processes not only for governments but also for investors in its website. However, Bohol only achieves five of the ten criteria for open data. Relevant governance data exists. The data is available in digital form. The data is available free of charge and is up-to-date and it is easy to find information on the data set. However, data cannot be reused as it is not machine readable. The budget files, for example, are in PDF and needs to be converted into other forms (e.g. Excel spreadsheets) to allow a user to analyse the data.
On the part of the citizen groups, most of the civil society groups are not yet aware of the existence of the FDP. Thus, the different organisations did not look for documents in the provincial government’s website. As a result, information provided by Bohol in its website is hardly used by citizen groups. There are at least three reasons for this. First, they are not aware that the data exists in the website. Second, they are not interested with the information provided. Third, even when the information is provided, they do not have the technical knowledge to understand and use the documents for their benefit.
The recent event earned as much enthusiasm from its audience as it did during the project launch in July this year. The activity did not only become a venue for the stakeholders / respondents to hear and validate the results of the study, it also gave the aud ience an opportunity to express their insights, hopes and commitments for a genuinely transparent governance.
The research team is set to do two separate provincial presentations in South Cotabato and Bulacan, the other two study sites and a national presentation for the three provincial sites in Manila within this quarter and the next of 2014.