Kapihan with Government Agencies

Date Originally Published: March 09, 2015
Date Republished: October 13, 2017

Agencies play a crucial role in the work of opening up government data. It is their support and active participation that has allowed for the continued expansion of the Open Data portal, which currently hosts a total of 1,237 data files. In recognition of this, the Open Data Task Force recently organized kapihan sessions, or informal discussions, with two sets of government agencies. The objectives were fourfold: to update them on our 2014 milestones; to re-engage them to submit data inventories and data sets; to provide a space in which they could raise concerns or questions; and to establish a jump-off point from which to launch collaborative activities in the future.

Nine agencies—the Commission on Audit (COA), Bureau of the Treasury (BTr), Land Registration Authority (LRA), Department of Energy (DOE), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and the Department of Justice (DOJ)—participated in the first session, which took place on February 13. The second one, held on February 20, was attended by representatives from six agencies: the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), National Archives of the Philippines (NAP), Governance Commission for GOCCs (GCG), and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

Both sessions began with a round of introductions, followed by a presentation from Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Undersecretary Bon Moya, before culminating in an open forum. Usec. Moya opened his presentation with a brief overview of Open Data Philippines, explaining its goals and driving principles. Some of the agency representatives in attendance were already familiar with the movement—having participated in the International Open Data Master Class and Boot Camp—while others were new to open data.

Next, he went through some of our highlights from 2014: the #KabantayNgBayan: Procurement Hack, the DBM Master Class and Boot Camp, the launch of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) dashboard, and the incorporation of open data provisions into the 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA) and the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill. Recognizing the need to objectively assess our progress, Usec. Moya also discussed the findings of the World Wide Web Foundation’s Open Data Barometer, a report which examines open data readiness, implementation, and impact across 86 countries.

The open forum provided participants with a chance to react to Usec. Moya’s presentation and share their experiences with opening up data, whether through data.gov.ph or their own agencies’ websites. The ensuing discussion exposed certain fears—some agencies were afraid to upload data that was not yet updated, while others lamented the lack of training among their staff. Usec. Moya responded by saying that data need not be published only after it has been finalized; it can always be updated at a later date. The Task Force also offered to conduct agency-specific training sessions, such as the one organized for DBM.

For many agencies, the first step involves making an inventory of data and noting the status of their data sets (whether they are already in open formats or have yet to be converted). Following the Kapihan sessions, many agencies such as the DILG, DAR, GCG, COA, and DOE started coordinating with Data Lead Gianne Gaoiran to finalize their inventories and clean up their data sets. Others—such as the DOJ, DOST, and MMDA—expressed interest in specialized training sessions.

Open data is collaborative work, and as such the Task Force will continue to conduct similar engagements in the future, to further strengthen our partnerships with government agencies. This is in aid of our main goal, which is to liberate and publicize as much data as possible, and foster a culture of transparency in government.