Blogue de Lyne Robichaud

28 juillet 2011

The Open Government and Francophonie Project at risk because of fear and lack of commitment

A few weeks ago, the president of the United States extended an invitation to over 50 countries of the United Nations, asking them to engage in the Open Government Partnership. (See: Obama Seeks National Commitments transparency efforts, July 6, 2011)

Since his first day in office as president, and the signature of the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, Barack Obama has positioned his country as an open government leader. This resulted in launching a movement that has spread to many countries around the world. (See: Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, Transparency and Open Government, January 21, 2009.)

In September 2010, Obama gave an impetus to the global open government movement when he invited each nation to "make government more open and accountable." The president urged other countries to return within the United Nations, and to "achieve specific commitments to promote transparency in the fight against corruption to boost civic engagement, and exploit new technologies so that we strengthen the foundations of freedom in our own country, while living up to the ideals that can illuminate the world." (See Remarks by the President to the General Assembly, New York, NY, September 23, 2010.)

The open government philosophy has not yet been adopted by countries sharing the French language. Although the French Republic has endowed Étalab with an open data mission, which leads to an open data portal, there is no real of open government in France yet, with the exception of a locality that distinguished itself and innovates due to exceptional factors that play in its favor: the deputy mayor of Nantes proceeds by a proximity approach and the work of Claire Gallon, head of LiberTIC, has been numerously praised.

Canada announced an open government on March 18, 2011. However, even if the announcement was made, this does not mean that the open government principles are being applied. As Democracy Watch noted in its report, Canada has received a failing grade of 61 because "Almost all laws necessary for the integrity of a system of effective government have been provided by the legal framework. However, gaps and loopholes in the laws, and enforcement weakness, undermine the system." (See my post)

In December 2010, being aware that there was no development of open government in the Francophone world, I created with John F. Moore of Government in the Lab, the Open Government and Francophonie Project. This project proposes an agreement between countries that share the French language, which resembles the Open Government Partnership proposed by Barack Obama to UN members, except that instead of being designed for UN, the project is aimed at members of the Organization internationale de la Francophonie.

The project, a social business (non profit organization) providing strategic open government consulting services, proceeds by a gradual implementation of open government, to assess the strengths and weaknesses and allow adjustment and program improvement. It starts by implementing a pilot program in the territory of a nation-leading, on the African continent (as approximately 50% of Francophones in the world are in Africa. The pilot program then extends to three other African countries. The four countries account for four of the seven OIF administrative regions. The nation's flagship of open government hands in a motion at the Summit of countries sharing French as a language, invites half the OIF members to participate in an open government initiative, similar to the Open Government Partnership for the UN members. The open government pilot program is then deployed in a five-year plan to 39 countries of the Francophonie and 977 of their cities.

10 member States of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie have already started open data and open government initiatives, the list including Quebec:
- FRANCE ( et
- And now QUEBEC thinks about it

The Open Government and Francophonie Project was introduced in February 2011 to the Deputy House Leader of the Government of Quebec, Henri-François Gautrin.
M. Gautrin has not yet committed to support it. He made a few things in its favor, but backed. One step forward, three steps back. This hesitation dance has negative consequences and affects the development of the project. The project is even threatened by fear and the lack of support.

However, Mr. Gautrin launched seven days ago the public phase of its analysis mandate about the potential of Web 2.0. In February 2011 (when I started communicating with him), there was no question of including open data nor open government in the mandate. I am delighted that Mr. Gautrin's thinking has progressed, enough so that he dared to add an open government element. See "Towards an open government policy in Quebec."

On June 7, 2011, I handed in a presentation sheet to IDÉ of the City of Trois-Rivières. IDÉtr's mission is to create and maintain jobs in Trois-Rivières. Social business (non profit) projects are allowed in this program, which provides technical support to lanch a business (including writing a business plan) and financial support to independant workers via a partnership with Emploi Québec.

I met in person the Deputy House Leader of the government of Québec on May 17, 2011. At that meeting, he asked himself this question aloud several times: "How can we collaborate with you?".

This is not due to a shortage of ideas for collaboration proposals that collaboration did not materialize, as Mr. Gautrin has received several proposals from me, between February and May 2011, in addition to the Open Government and Francophonie Project. There was a range of suggestions for collaboration on Gautrin's table.

I asked him his autorization to include his name in the collaborative team as a "mentor" in the presentation sheet of the Open Government and Francophonie project presented to IDÉtr. He did not commit. He responded: "I'm too busy."

There was question that I accompany him in Kinshasa, Congo, to attend the 37th Session of the Assembly of Parliamentarians of the Francophonie (Assemblée des parlementaires de la Francophonie, APF), as Mr. Gautrin is also the deputy chairman of the Quebec Chapter of the APF, a vector of Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.

His team told me that in Kinshasa, "he will not have the opportunity to speak to me, because he will be too busy."

Gautrin is definitely a man busy.

The direct consequence of this lack of commitment is that IDÉtr refused the Open Government and Francophonie Project for the following reasons: I was told that I am "too good " and that the team "does not have the skills to mentor me".

If Mr. Gautrin (or other teammates of his entourage) had agreed to collaborate to the Open Government and Francophonie Project, it is likely that the City of Trois-Rivières would have been less scared. By having one (or more) mentor (s) in the project, it would have created a balance between the technical services offered by IDÉtr and advice provided by (the) mentor(s). Maybe IDÉtr would have reacted differently, instead of by fear and rejection.

Since I handed in the project presentation sheet to IDÉtr, three important events occured:
- The province of British Columbia launched the first open data provincial Canadian portal. This is no longer a dream, open data and open government is being materialized at the provincial level in Canada. Other provinces, including Quebec, will follow the example of this provincial leader. (See: new BC govt website ( and open data and DataBC
- Barack Obama invited Canada, among the 50 countries invited to collaborate on Open Government Partnership. The project similar to the Open Government Partnership that I created with John F Moore, for the Francophonie, is not far-fetched since a partnership of a similar nature will be launched at the UN. (See 'Info czar urge Canadian role in open plan', 18 July 2011)
- Henri-François Gautrin has finally decided to openly talk about open government. He included an open government section in his public consultation.

Tuesday (July 28, 2011), a gentleman of the team IDÉtr called me because I requested a meeting with the CEO. I consider that my Open Government and Francophonie Project was misjudged, and I do not think that being "too good" and "their team not being qualified enough" to be acceptable rejection criteria.

I want to meet the director general of IDÉtr in person to have the opportunity to explain my project and to reverse the adverse decision.

So Tuesday, IDÉtr announced me that the Open Government and Francophonie Project is now eligible for IDÉtr's technical services. It is curious, how their team has suddenly become competent in management of international projects. But I am still being refused access to their financial services (support).

I was told that my project was not a business project, and that the industry it aims for does not fit the job description of the Minister of Labour, and that I have to go the together to make her change these criteria. Here, the gentleman in question is squarely swimming in total terrifying fear!

I looked closely at Emploi-Québec' criteria for the self-employed program, and I think I respond to their demands.

The section "social economy" of IDÉtr's website states: "The social economy businesses sell products or services to a targeted population, in accordance with a social mission, without sacrificing on profitability."

In the Open Government and Francophonie Project, the social business sells open government strategic consulting services, respects a social mission, without sacrificing on profitability. In addition to the expected sum to be raised through funding programs of institutions and partnerships with several organizations and donors reached in person at a concertation meeting, a fundraising (corporate and individual) is planned in this project. I foresee a fundraising campaign similar to the one lead by 'Live Below the Line'.

Parallel Fund: A fund-raising campaign aiming at corporations and individuals will be planned and implemented, in order to provide visibility and business opportunities in Africa and the rest of the Francophonie.

Honorary Committee: A committee of honor will be established. The chair of this committee will be offered to sponsor the fundraising campaign. Many vice-chairs will complete this honorary committee. The committee's mission will be to help develop partnerships with funding agencies corporations, and governments.

On the web site of Emploi Québec, the definition of a customer is as follows:
Those covered by the independant workers measure are those who have a business plan or those for whom self-employment is the solution. They must enroll in this category: workers at (financial) risk.

To qualify, candidates must have the skills and qualities that match a profile of an entrepreneur, including:
- The temperament of a leader;
- A great capacity for work;
- An ability to anticipate and solve problems;
- Self-confidence;
- A certain ability to communicate;
- An ability to adapt;
- Demonstrate the motivation to expand or start a business;
- Have experience or skills related to the project;
- Submit a written draft of a business plan;
- Submit a curriculum vitae (resume).

To be eligible, projects must have the following characteristics:
- Create a new business and have control of it;
- Consolidation of self-employment in the case of workers at (financial) risk;
- Seek self-employment or sole proprietorship, whatever the legal status of the business.

Businesses not eligible are those:
- Whose activities are controversial, with which it is unreasonable to link the Ministry of Employment and Social Solidarity (MESS) and Emploi-Québec (eg, dating agency, pawn shop, etc.).

Maybe the gentleman from IDÉtr think that open government strategic consulting services is a controversial activity, with which it is unreasonable to link the Ministry of Employment??

In this case, rest assured, M. gentleman from IDÉtr, the government of Quebec is analyzing open government possibilities. Proof: "Towards an open government in Quebec", published by the Deputy House Leader Henri-François Gautrin 7 days ago.

The Director General of IDÉtr will be back next Monday (August 1), from his vacation. I expect a re-evaluation by the IDÉtr team of my Open Government and Francophonie Project, and I hope they will give me this time a positive response. If they continue to reject my job creation efforts, I could be tempted to consider their approach as discrimination. And take appropriate action in cases of discrimination.

As for Mr. Gautrin and his team, I ask them to make an effort and support the Open Government and Francophonie Project. Open government requires compliance with these three core values: transparency, participation and collaboration.

Gautrin's team failed to put collaboration into practice. The ideas of the citizens will not always fail as wanted, in the order and in the way the government wishes to receive them. Ideas will come from everywhere, in any possible manner, in a variety of styles and forms: in 140-character tweets, in emails, on platforms, on Facebook pages, etc.. The government must be flexible and adapt to the languages and styles of citizens. The government must act, when it sees from citizens a strong interest and a demonstration of willingness to participate. The government must make efforts to sustain this interest and desire, and find avenues for co-creation and co-production.

I sent repeated requests (I insist heavily on the word "repeated") of collaboration to Gautrin and his team in the past six months.

Stop saying "NO" and try to think differently, try to get to say "YES" from time to time. The open government section of your public analysis mandate is great, but now that, these principles must be transposed into gestures and actions. Ideas must be turned into reality:
- By the announcement of the implementation of an open government in Quebec
- But also by supporting the development of the Open Government and Francophonie Projetc.

YES to transparency.
YES to citizen participation.
YES to collaboration with engaged citizens.

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