Bernhard Krabina, KDZ Centre for Public Administration Research Austria
Open government is the comprehensive redesign of politics and administrative activities according to the principles of modern public management and public governance. Open government focuses on data transparency (stage 1), participation (stage 2), and collaboration (stage 3). Open data (stage 1) can provide a basis for political processes in participation (stage 2). In collaboration projects (stage 3), data may result that are published in the data portal, on the one hand (stage 1), but may also be the basis for further participation processes on the other (stage 2).
Open government aims to achieve the ubiquitous engagement of stakeholders (stage 4) to strengthen legitimacy and confidence and generate public value. This is achieved through transparency (stage 1), participation (stage 2), and collaboration (stage 3).
In the era of open government, the involvement of citizens beyond consultation processes is gaining traction. Open government collaboration in particular emphasizes the importance of ‘co-production’, which can differ in intensity from joint performance of typically public tasks down to task delegation and voluntary activities performed by citizens.
The City of Vienna is on the forefront of open government, with several activities starting in 2011 until the present day.
The City of Vienna was the first city to start an open government initiative in the German-speaking countries. It started with the launch of an open data portal in May 2011 and the publication of the ‘Open Government Implementation Model’ as a strategy document stressing the importance of data, participation and collaboration as phases on the path to a more open and transparent government. Since then, the City of Vienna has developed a track record of a new openness in their approach to the topic. For instance, the initial launch of the open government initiative was accompanied by stakeholder-workshops which were announced in social media and open to everyone interested to participate. Three workshops were held: one for politicians, one for businesses and one for citizens. The workshops were held with the aim to prepare for the first open government data conference in Austria. The publication of new datasets on the open data portal <https://open.wien.gv.at> is done in phases that include events where datasets are presented by representatives from the city administration where interested stakeholders can ask questions and propose changes. In March 2020, the 38th phase was presented. Moreover, the ‘Cooperation OGD Austria’ was formed, led by the City of Vienna, including further authorities and NGOs to set the basic agreements for the future of open government data in Austria. The cooperation was awarded the UN Public Service Award in 2014 in the category ‘Improving the delivery of public services’.
In addition to the open data portal, a participation platform was launched at <https://www.partizipation.wien.at> where continuously users can suggest new datasets and the city administration is reacting upon these requests. The Austrian participation software ‘discuto’ is used. On this participation platform, the City of Vienna is continuously implementing participation project ranging from the discussion of a digital agenda, asking for ideas for artificial intelligence and internet of things to the discussion about district budgets.
A digital agenda for Vienna was initiated with several participatory elements (both online and offline). The initiative ‘DigitalCity.Wien’ was further launched in 2014 by stakeholders from businesses and Vienna together with the city administration and is in close collaboration ever since. Also, the app ‘Sag’s wien’ (‘Tell it to Vienna’) is an application where citizens can report a concern or malfunctioning to the Vienna City Administration at any time and place in the city. As the current participation platform can be used mainly for generating new ideas or discussing and rating existing ideas, the city administration has launched a ‘challenge’ to present possible solutions for a more holistic participation platform.
The open government initiative of the City of Vienna shows a sustainable initiative that does not end by publishing data on a data portal but demonstrates how continuous participation of stakeholders can be achieved through multiple channels: in-person meeting at the OGD phase events, through idea generation on the participation platform, in conferences and workshops and through social media. This way the city administration is in continuous dialogue with external stakeholders on topics of data disclosure (what, why, in what quality, etc.) The initiative transformed the way of delivering public services in Vienna, as shown by subsequent initiatives and projects. The city administration has managed not only to convince ‘sceptic’ departments over time, but has also put policies in place: in May 2019, the CIO has signed the self-declaration of the Open Data Charter, stating that they will follow the principle ‘Open by default’. The practice shows how larger cities can lead the way also for smaller municipalities. With the publication of the Open Government Implementation Model, a practical guide for other authorities has been provided. Vienna also leads the Cooperation OGD Austria where other cities and smaller municipalities can benefit from the early experiences of Vienna.
At a first glance it seems that only the large cities in Austria have the power to publish datasets on the Austrian open data portal. The exception is the Municipality of Engerwitzdorf, a small municipality of about 8,000 inhabitants in the vicinity of the City of Linz which publishes more datasets than the cities of Graz, Innsbruck and Salzburg. Of course, according to the size of the municipality, larger cities do not only have more data, they also have more resources to publish them. But also smaller municipalities (like Engerwitzdorf) show that it is possible to provide OGD continuously. Platforms like Open Spending Austria show that it is important especially for smaller municipalities to provide open data automatically – either by re-using existing data provision mechanisms (like transferring data about municipal spending to the statistics office) or by integrating OGD interfaces in municipal software solutions.
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Krabina B, ‘The E-Participation Ladder – Advancing from Unawareness to Impact Participation’ in Peter Parycek and Noella Edelmann (eds), Proceedings of the 16th International Conference for E-Democracy and Open Government 2016 (Edition Donau-University Krems 2016)
Krabina B and Lutz B, ‘Open Government Implementation Model’ <https://www.kdz.eu/en/open-government-implementation-model>
Parycek P, Höchtl J and Ginner M, ‘Open Government Data Implementation Evaluation’ (2014) 9 European journal of theoretical and applied electronic commerce research 80
Pereira GV and others, ‘Report on the Impacts of Open Data V2’ (data.gov.at, 14 November 2017) <https://www.data.gv.at/katalog/dataset/ff51457a-2c9f-4553-b5f0-ea10a0c71119>
Schmidthuber L, Krabina B and Hilgers D, ‘Local Open Government: Empirical Evidence from Austrian Municipalities’ (EGOV-CeDEM-EPART 2018 Conference, Krems, September 2018)
 Bernhard Krabina and Brigitte Lutz, ‘Open Government Implementation Model’ (KDZ, undated) <https://www.kdz.eu/en/open-government-implementation-model> accessed 2 August 2019.
 ’35. Open Government Plattform Wien – Nachlese’ (Digitales Wien, 28 June 2019) <https://digitales.wien.gv.at/site/35-open-government-plattform-wien/> accessed 2 August 2019.
 For more information, see <https://www.data.gv.at/infos/cooperation-ogd-austria/>.
 Letter from Ulrike Huemer, CIO of the City of Vienna (13 May 2019) <https://drive.google.com/file/d/1k3wn1ti57J2hP63IoR3eoSNlUHr4_TFp/view> accessed 10 March 2020.
 Krabina and Lutz, ‘Open Government Implementation Model’, above.
 See the list at <https://www.data.gv.at/veroeffentlichende-stellen/>.
 For more detail, see the report section 3.2. on Budget Transparency with Open Spending Austria.