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First Issue: Insights Into Open Local Governance

Bohol, in the heart of Central Visayas, is the 10th largest island in the Philippines. It is comprised of 48 municipalities and one city with 15, 14, and 19 municipalities composing the first, second and third con-gressional districts, respectively. The pro-ductive force of Bohol is almost 58% of the total population, of which around 89% are engaged in farming and fishing. Agricul-ture remains the biggest sector in the prov-ince in terms working population and land use.

Bohol is at the forefront of participatory local governance in the country. The Pro-vincial Government of Bohol (hereafter, Bohol) is one of the most awarded prov-inces in terms of excellence in local govern-ance. In 2011, using the Local Governance Performance Measurement System score-card of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Bohol ranked as the best governed province in the Philippines.

The Open LGU Research Project wants to assess Bohol’s initiatives in making the local government more transparent, or open, to the public. With funding support from the International Development Re-search Center through the World Wide Web Foundation, a research was conducted in the second half of 2013 to gauge the province’s initiatives on open governance and how these initiatives impacted on citizen groups as well as the local government bureaucracy.

The study found out the following:
1. Bohol fully complies with the Full Disclo-sure Policy (FDP) of DILG by posting re-quired governmental information in its web-site. These documents, usually financial in nature, are made available in portable docu-ment format (PDF), and are regularly updated on a quarterly basis.

2. 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 web-site. It also posts several plans and reports that gives information on the plans and accom-plishments of the provincial government. There are several information in the website of Bohol that can be published as useful data sets.

assessing the open data supply

assessing the open data supply

3. Bohol achieves five of the ten criteria for open data. (see table on the right) 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 can not be reused as it is not machine read-able. 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.assessing the open data supply

4. While local governance documents are accessible through websites, citizen groups access government information through traditional media. Most of the civil soci-ety groups are not yet aware of the exis-tence of the FDP. Thus, the different or-ganisation did not look for documents in the provincial government’s website. Most of the groups access government docu-ments included in the FDP by requesting copies from government offices in provin-cial government.

5. 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 ex-ists in the website. Second, they are not interested with the information provided. Third, even when the information is pro-vided, they do not have the technical knowledge to understand and use the docu-ments for their benefit.

The impact of providing information to citizens through the government website is still very low at this stage. The FDP only began in 2011 and thus the low awareness of citizen groups regarding the initiative. Open governance data can only generate impact when the citizens know, take inter-est, understand, and use the data to advance the common good.

Download a copy of the research insight here

Download a copy of the one-page briefing here.