How some countries involve citizens in governing

Boy with painted hand (© AP Images)
Citizen involvement starts young, as this Colombian boy makes clear. His hand, painted with the word "yes" in Spanish, shows his support for a peace deal. (© AP Images)

“Open government” should never be an oxymoron. And thankfully, more and more national governments are making sure it isn’t by increasing their transparency.

Since the 2011 launch of the Open Government Partnership, its membership has grown to 75 countries. These countries allow their citizens to scrutinize government operations. They provide access to official documents and proceedings through computers or mobile phones and respond to citizens through digital tools. Finally, they encourage citizens to help spot and fight government corruption.

Major developed countries and some smaller nations — Estonia, Chile, Costa Rica and Singapore among them — top the open government rankings published by the World Justice Project. Other nations are making significant progress. Here are a few examples:


  • Allows citizens to track governmental actions online and invites their input.
  • Buys goods and services online, with its e-procurement system, adding efficiency and transparency and lowering costs.
  • Codifies anti-corruption and access-to-information measures and plans additional laws.


Man standing in crowd looking at mobile phone (© AP Images)
As phones become ubiquitous in Indonesia — this man uses his to snap a photo before a prayer session in Jakarta — the government wants citizens to be able to use them to track services. (© AP Images)
  • Allows citizens to monitor and verify online the delivery of public services.
  • Coordinates “open government” efforts with a designated unit in the president’s office.
  • Legally protects whistleblowers and staffs a special office for public access to information.
  • Holds public forums on plans for national and local development.


  • Provides public access to government revenue and spending data online.
  • Solicits online feedback from citizens on services and proposed policies.
  • Puts 2 million court decisions online and gathers statistics to allow assessment of courts.
  • With a prime minister and a ministry overseeing transparency activities, holds monthly meetings, hackathons and training, plus celebrates an open government week.


Four African women wearing colorful cloth (© AP Images)
Kenyan women line up to vote in 2010 in Ngong, some 40 kilometers from Nairobi. Today, citizens with computer access can register to vote and learn about upcoming ballots online. (© AP Images)
  • Runs an online platform that allows citizens to apply for a marriage certificate, driver’s license, passport and other documents.
  • Publishes census data and government reports on an open-data platform.
  • Builds a network of one-stop centers to provide IT support to people without Internet or mobile access in using public services online.
  • Offers online voter registration and candidate information.


Man holding his fist up in crowd (© AP Images)
Marking the Arab Spring anniversary in January 2016, Tunisians celebrate this era of democratic rule, in which new laws allow them to connect with government officials online. (© AP Images)
  • Puts data on the oil and gas industry online.
  • Hosts a website that channels requests for information directly to government agencies.
  • Requests public input on policies online.
  • Allows citizens to pay bills online or through mobile devices.
  • Releases a “citizen’s budget” written in layman’s language.