The flow of information between governments, citizens and stakeholders is an essential element of open and inclusive societies. Indeed, it is a prerequisite for government transparency and integrity, and for the ability of citizens to hold them accountable and participate in public life.
Public communication, and the media ecosystems in which it takes place, are therefore key components of Open Government.
Understood as any communication activity led by public institutions for the public good, public communication is distinct from political communication, which instead is linked to political parties, debates, or elections. It is a central government function that serves as a main tool of policy implementation and services design and delivery, and allows to listen to and understand citizens.
Despite this, the role of communication for policy and its contribution to the open government principles are often insufficiently acknowledged, resulting in low investment and reform of this function. To address the significant evidence gap in this space the OECD is developing the first international report on public communication (coming in 2021), based on an analysis of policies and practices in over 40 countries. In parallel, the OECD is convening a group of experts from the fields of open government and public communication to build on collective experiences and identify areas for intervention.
This analysis is taking place in a challenging context for media ecosystems, marked by a drastic shift to digital platforms for news and information, the decline of print and broadcast journalism, growing restrictions to press freedoms, and the rise of disinformation and misinformation. This context complicates the ability of the media to serve as watchdogs and as pillars of government accountability. It also undermines citizens’ access to the transparent and complete information they need to participate constructively in policy decisions, and government’s ability to deliver policies effectively.