An Initial Assessment of Open Government Plans

As part of the ongoing implementation of the Open Government Plans, we have asked the Cabinet departments and other major agencies to work with us to evaluate version 1.0 of their Plans (or recent revisions) against the requirements of the Open Government Directive. The assessments show that we are off to a good start--but have much more work to do as we transition our overall efforts towards effective agency implementation. 

There are important lessons to be learned not only from the government’s self-evaluation efforts, but also from the reviews and recommendations that we’re receiving from outside groups and individuals.  Some of the constructive criticisms are already being incorporated, while others are sparking new thoughts and approaches to how agencies are pressing forward with their initiatives.  We want that feedback and look forward to much more of it.  This is a work in progress – there are ways every plan can be strengthened – and all of us in the Administration are committed to a process of implementation, assessment, and improvement.  

Earlier this month, we described a process for evaluating each agency’s plan to make operations and data more transparent, and expand opportunities for citizen participation, collaboration, and oversight. The review began with a checklist of 30 criteria drawn directly from the Directive. An agency that meets all of the criteria in full gets an overall green flag.  An agency that fails to fulfill even one criterion gets an overall yellow flag, to signify that more work remains to be done to improve the plan as part of the implementation process. In addition, we have included an evaluation of each of the four major components of the plan – Transparency, Participation, Collaboration, Flagship Initiative - as well as a process section.

We have posted the results on our Open Government Dashboard. In addition, each agency has posted the specific results of its evaluation on their /open government page.

Finding #1:  All on Board. All Cabinet departments and major agencies have submitted plans that make significant strides towards open government as called for in the Directive. Better still, many other agencies – not specifically bound by the Directive – have completed deliverables to demonstrate their commitment as well.  All agencies recognize the value of breaking down long-standing barriers between the American people and their government.

Finding #2:  More Still to Do. Only three of the cabinet and other key agencies won a green flag for across-the-board excellence. All the others – including our own offices of OSTP and OMB – have more work to do before the Plan fully satisfies every requirement in the Directive. With your feedback, we are keen to improve upon these living documents to fulfill the letter and the spirit of the Directive.

Finding #3:  Open Government Pracitices Worthy of Review. Three agencies both achieved the requirements and took ambitious steps that might serve as models for the rest of government – the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Transportation, and NASA. HHS developed a concrete plan to which it can be held accountable for identifying and publishing high value data sets with an impressive roster of commitments this year; Transportation engaged over 200 staff members in crafting the plan from nearly every service area to instill an open government culture wide and deep within the agency;  and NASA is inviting volunteer software developers to collaborate in the development of NASA technologies, both to advance the agency’s mission and to spur commercialization leading to economic growth.

We will highlight more noteworthy open government practices across the agencies as they push forward with their plans.  We’ll keep our “leading practices” page a place where you can learn more about the innovative steps underway across the government. 

We wish to especially thank the 20,000+ members of the public contributing to each agency’s plans, posting comments and voting on specific ideas. Your input has been incredibly valuable thus far and we hope you will continue to participate as we turn our attention towards the more important task of implementing the milestones described in each plan. We will be reporting back frequently through this blog and other fora to highlight the latest efforts in open government but the bulk of the work will take place at the agency level. Each agency will update you on implementation and opportunities for collaboration through their /open pages.

Vivek Kundra is U.S. Chief Information Officer.

Aneesh Chopra is U.S. Chief Technology Officer.

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