Greece has been much in the news recently as the Syriza government tries to deal with the country's massive economic problems. We hear plenty about its high-level negotiations with the EU; what we don't hear about is the Greek government's innovative use of openness to tackle key issues in everyday life.
One of those that the Greek people are rightly concerned about is corruption, which is notoriously difficult to root out. A fascinating post on the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) Web site explains how open data and open government are being applied to address this problem:
The public administration has introduced the digital platform “Diavgeia” (meaning “clarity” in Greek), on which all laws and public decisions are published before they enter into force, including public contracts – thus fulfilling the transparency requirements of a number of UNCAC articles (Article 9 and Article 10). Likewise, the initiative www.opengov.gr allows citizens and other stakeholders to deliberate on draft laws and ensure public consultation (partially fulfilling UNCAC Article 13).
At the same time, transparency is being used to allow Greek citizens to keep an eye on their politicians and to allow greater participation in the law-making process:
Civil society has also become more daring in the fight against corruption and expanded the scope of digital democracy into more areas of government life. Vouliwatch (Vouli means “parliament” in Greek) is giving Greek citizens the opportunity to ask questions publicly to MPs and MEPs and is monitoring their voting behaviour. It is also using crowd-sourcing techniques with the public to produce ideas for legislation.
In particular, Vouliwatch has introduced Policy Monitor, a tool that summarises the positions of political parties on important topics, and allows citizens to compare and crowd source the agendas with just a few clicks. It also organises “political labs”, where citizens and MPs debate current policy issues. With its strong relationships within the NGO community and open data movement, Vouliwatch is putting the government’s implementation of UNCAC Article 19 to the test by facilitating public access to parliamentarians on a variety of issues, such as anti-corruption, environmental protection, social policies, welfare, homelessness, civic engagement and urban renewal.
None of these ideas is new in itself - they've been deployed elsewhere for some time. But applying them in Greece is pretty revolutionary for the unprecedented transparency and oversight that they bring, and the way that they empower a population that previously had little access to either information or power. If they work - and let's hope they do - they will stand as a wonderful demonstration of how bottom-up approaches based on openness can contribute just as much as the high-profile horse-trading at the international level.