New US open government strategy; Turkey to use blockchain to verify service users: policy & delivery news in brief

By on 05/01/2023 | Updated on 12/01/2023
The White House, Washington DC

Global Government Forum’s weekly digest of the news you need to know but might have missed.

White House releases action plan on open government

The Biden administration has released plans to nurture a more transparent and accountable federal government.

The plan published by the White House marks the administration’s first US Open Government National Action Plan, and the fifth such plan overall.

It builds on the President’s Management Agenda – released in 2021 – which outlined three priorities: strengthening the federal workforce; delivering “improved customer experience”; and funding vital services in the wake of COVID-19. 

Alexander Macgillivray, deputy assistant to the president and principal deputy US chief technology officer, said that regular engagement from the public on government performance would improve public services and hold government accountable for their delivery.

“Government works best when we create channels for members of the public to regularly engage with us and hold us accountable for improving the lives of all people, including those communities that have been excluded from social, economic and civic life,” he said.

The plan focuses on improving access to government data, research and information, enhancing civic spaces in which to engage the public, and transforming the delivery of government services in accordance with an executive order signed by the president last year.

Other focuses include countering corruption within government, and equal justice under law.

Read more: Biden’s management agenda prioritises federal employee engagement

Turkey announces blockchain project to verify users of digital public services

The government of Turkey has outlined plans to apply blockchain technology to its public service portal ‘e-Devlet’ to identify and verify citizens during login.

At the Digital Turkey 2023 event, Fuat Oktay, Turkey’s vice president, said that the use of distributed ledger technology would allow citizens to access e-wallet applications via a secure digital ID as part of their interactions with online government services.

“With the login system that will work within the scope of the e-wallet application, our citizens will be able to enter the e-Devlet with a digital identity created in the blockchain network,” Oktay said.

Blockchain technology is typically used to record transactional data across a vast network of computers, which cannot then be changed or manipulated. It has been adopted largely because of its decentralised function, which allows access to transactions for auditing and verification.

Turkey has a track record of setting out ambitious blockchain projects. It announced its National Blockchain Infrastructure and regulatory sandbox in 2019 and its City Coin project in 2020, for example. The latter sought to make it easier for citizens to pay for services and for authorities to collect taxes more efficiently. However, no further details have been released since the initial announcement.

Read more: Bank on it: how financial digital ID can boost security and inclusion

French government slammed by court for climate policy failure

An administrative court in Paris has ruled that the French government failed to sufficiently cut greenhouse gas emissions in line with its pledges enshrined by the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The court said that the government’s failure to meet emissions goals meant that it bore partial responsibility for ecological damage.

The ruling came in a case filed in 2018 by an alliance of non-government organisations (NGOs), which gained the backing of more than two million citizens. The NGOs accused the French government of not doing enough to limit the effects of climate change, and urged the court to put pressure on the state to deliver change and honour its commitment to the Paris Accord.

The NGOs welcomed the ruling, calling it “a first historic victory for the climate and a major step forward in French law”, adding that “until now, the state denied the inadequacy of its climate policies, despite the accumulation of evidence”.

The group said that it hoped the ruling would force the government to “finally take concrete measures to at least meet its climate commitments” and that “justice will not be limited to acknowledging the state’s fault”.

The ruling marks the first time a court has condemned the French government for its failure on climate policy. However, similar verdicts have been made in countries such as the Netherlands and the UK.

Read more: Why COP27 needs to shine a light on climate change adaptation

Australian government faces backlash for ignoring top health official’s advice on China travel checks

The Australian government has come under fire for going against its chief medical officer’s advice not to impose pre-flight COVID checks on travellers from China.

Professor Paul Kelly’s advice was submitted on 31 December by the country’s health department. It said that Kelly did not believe that there was “sufficient public health rationale” for additional travel requirements, and that further restrictions on people travelling from China were “disproportionate to the risk”.

Australia’s health minister Mark Butler defended the government’s decision. He said that the country’s pre-flight measures represented “an abundance of caution”, blamed Beijing for a “lack of comprehensive information” about the outbreak in China, and said the measures Australia had taken were not dissimilar to those of other countries.

Australia’s opposition Liberal/National Coalition criticised the decision to go against Kelly’s advice. David Littleproud, leader of the National Party, urged Butler to restore the confidence of the Australian public by remedying “confusion” around travel advice. He said Butler had a duty to “make it transparently clear… what are the trigger points moving forward”.

Melissa McIntosh, a member of Australia’s Liberal Party and shadow assistant minister for mental health, called Butler’s decision to run counter to the country’s top health advisor “quite perplexing”.

In an interview with Australian morning news programme ABC News Breakfast, she said: “One of the reasons why Australia got through the pandemic [and] was one of the best countries in the world to do so was because we followed Australia’s medical advice.”

Read more: Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout flawed, audit finds

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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