Answering Your Questions on the Open Government Directive

Thank you to everyone who joined in for the live chat earlier this week.  Given the critical role the American people played in shaping the Open Government Directive, it was exciting to be able to unveil it directly to all of you. There were so many excellent questions that we weren’t able to get to them all on Tuesday.   By way of this email, I will endeavor to tackle a few more.

Dave Smith of Scranton Pennsylvania wrote: Out of the myriad data assets held in federal government, how can we prioritize and incentivize publishing those which provide maximal benefit to a large community of stakeholders?

Great question, Dave.  Like you, I agree that it will be critical for agencies to prioritize the most valuable data sets.  That’s why the Directive asks each agency to start by identifying three high-value data sets to publish online in the first 45 days. 

What does it mean for a data set to be high value? The Directive defines “high-value” information as “information that can be used to increase agency accountability and responsiveness; improve public knowledge of the agency and its operations; further the core mission of the agency; create economic opportunity; or respond to need and demand as identified through public consultation.”

As you can see, public consultation is hardwired into the definition. So, we will be looking to you and your fellow Americans to identify the jewels. You can start today, by suggesting specific data sets on Data.gov. The most compelling recommendations will tell us what you will do with the data once it is released to the public. For example, when the National Archives and Records Administration published the Federal Register in XML, a number of non-profits stepped up to manipulate the information in ways that made the content more meaningful to citizens. You can learn more about the power of this public-private partnership.

Russ Gaskin of Washington, DC commented: [W]ould like an example of what citizen participation might look like under this directive.

Russ, I expect citizen participation initiatives to build on the outburst of creativity and experimentation we’ve seen in this space in the first 10 months of this Administration. 

For example, Open for Questions gave Americans across the nation a direct line to the Administration to ask exactly what they wanted to know about the Administration’s efforts to get the economy back on track. Openinternet.gov enriched the official record on net neutrality with more than 22,000 comments.   Across the country and online, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been seeking the best ideas for the next generation of school reform through his Listening and Learning Tour.  A Health IT Online Forum is currently drawing on the expertise of stakeholders on the front lines of healthcare delivery to uncover new strategies to accelerate the adoption of Health IT.  And, just yesterday, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy launched the Public Access Policy Forum  to better understand how the Executive Branch might best enhance public access to peer reviewed papers arising from all federal science and technology agencies.

Of course, I would be remiss not to mention the unprecedented three-phase public consultation process  (brainstorming, discussion, drafting) that shaped the Open Government Directive itself.   You can learn more about the Open Government Initiative public consultation process and other innovations in participatory decision making in the Open Government Progress Report to the American People and in the White House Open Government Innovations Gallery.

At the same time, I hope that all of you will engage in the agency public consultation processes that will shape their Open Government plans. I know that Washington does not have a monopoly on the best ideas and want your ideas for how we can make participation opportunities more meaningful for citizens.

Steve Ressler of Tampa Bay, FL asked: Will there be Open Gov Scorecard or Awards for agencies?

Yes! As agencies implement their open government plans, we will need to measure progress and impact.  The White House Open Government Initiative will create a dashboard to track agencies’ Open Government Plans and access open government in the Executive branch.  This is another area where we will need your help. Keep your eyes peeled for a blog posting later today that will ask for your feedback on the metrics for Open Government.  We welcome your input and that of members of GovLoop. You will be able to find it right here on whitehouse.gov/open.

With that, I will wrap up for today.  As we move to implement the Directive across the Executive Branch, I hope all of you will continue to participate, to share your expertise and insights, and to ask the hard questions.

Aneesh Chopra is the Federal Chief Technology Officer and the Associate Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy

Your Federal Tax Receipt