Open Government Initiative Blog

  • Designing for Democracy

    On his first full day in office, the President signed the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, which directed Executive departments and agencies to “offer Americans increased opportunities to participate in policymaking and to provide their Government with the benefits of their collective expertise and information.” President Obama is committed to tapping ideas from the American people to make government work smarter, better, and more efficiently. At its heart, open government is about changing the relationship between government and the American people.

    One vexing challenge to engaging Americans in governance has been finding new models and tools for the next generation of citizen consultation.  We want to take advantage of the latest technology to: 1) enable government officials to circulate notice of opportunities to participate in public consultations to members of the public with expertise on a topic; and 2) provide those citizen experts with a mechanism to provide useful, relevant, and manageable feedback to government officials.

  • Cost-Cutter Wins 2010 SAVE Award

    Through the SAVE Award (which stands for Securing American’s Value and Efficiency) the Office of Management and Budget challenged Federal employees to submit their ideas to streamline government and save tax dollars. The winner, announced today, is Trudy Givens of Portage, Wisconsin, a 19-year veteran of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. Given the fast-growing number of people who access the Federal Register online, Trudy suggested that the Federal Register no longer be mailed by default to 8,000 Federal employees every workday. While statute requires that hard copies be available, allowing recipients to opt-in for hard copy delivery could yield savings associated with printing and postage. Trudy’s idea was selected as the winner from more than 18,000 submissions. As the 2010 winner, she will be invited to meet the President and discuss her idea with him in person.

    The SAVE Award is just the latest milestone in the Administration’s commitment to increase the use of prizes and challenges to tap the Nation’s top talent and best ideas. To learn more about the 2010 SAVE Award, check out Jeff Zients’ post “And the Top SAVER is….”  To learn more about Federal prizes and challenges, visit Challenge.gov.

  • A US-India Partnership on Open Government

    Ed. Note: Read the fact sheet on the US-India Partnership on Open Government (pdf).

    Today in Mumbai, President Obama attended what is likely the first ever  Expo on Democracy and Open Government. India's dynamism in the technology sector is well known, as is Gandhi's legacy in India of civic action and bottom-up change, but today's expo highlighted something very fresh: Indian civil society's harnessing of innovation and technology to strengthen India's democracy -- by fighting corruption, holding government officials accountable, and empowering citizens to be the change they seek.

  • “Social Security: Real Stories” Wins SSA Video Contest

    In late July, we launched our first-ever video contest, “How Social Security Has Made a Difference in My Life.”  In part, we wanted to harness the energy and sentiment surrounding Social Security’s 75th anniversary by capturing personal stories of the program’s impact on people’s lives. But more importantly, we hoped that engaging the American public in this way would help others discover the myriad ways in which Social Security makes a difference and can help people at critical, life-changing junctures.  While Social Security is much more than a retirement program, many citizens do not realize it until they become disabled, lose a loved one, or encounter severe financial hardship.

    So, ideally, through the lens of our video contest, people would illustrate the many facets of Social Security, and then share with the world through our YouTube channel.  The winner would gain additional visibility on Social Security’s website, Facebook and Twitter feeds.  This would be only the start of our foray into the realm of challenges, contests and prizes, as we move to get citizens more actively involved in both the dialogue and the effort of solving some of the problems we face.

    We anticipated selecting the winner – or even several – from a sizeable collection of contest entries.  Well, we didn’t get as much participation as we’d hoped.  Fewer than ten solid entries came in.  We’re pleased with the winning selection, though:   Congratulations to winners Erica Solway, Lindsay Trapnell, Laura Hunt, Alex Butterwick, and Kate Schriver, on an excellent job producing "Social Security: Real Stories."

    We learned a lot in the process, from lessons about structure and content to new ideas and practices in outreach via social media.  We’ve also thought a lot recently about the dialogue between Social Security and the American people; after all, the point of this and subsequent challenges is to inspire and engage Americans in a conversation with their Government. Through this dialogue, we hope to make Social Security more responsive to the American People, and more effective in delivering services to them.

    We’re grappling with these and other questions as we design our next challenge.  Thank you to all who participated, enjoy the winning video, and stay tuned at Challenge.gov!  By the way, on a separate path, we invited the public to submit narrative stories on our website, describing how Social Security made a difference in their lives.  More than 600 people responded with vivid accounts of how disability and survivors benefits made a big difference when tragedy struck.  You can read these inspiring stories here.

    Frank Baitman is Chief Information Officer at the Social Security Administration

  • President Obama Emphasizes Support for Open Government at the U.N.

    At his speech to the United Nations General Assembly this morning, President Obama emphasized the United States’ support for the principles of open government  worldwide:

    In all parts of the world, we see the promise of innovation to make government more open and accountable. Now, we must build on that progress. And when we gather back here next year, we should bring specific commitments to promote transparency; to fight corruption; to energize civic engagement; and to leverage new technologies so that we strengthen the foundation of freedom in our own countries, while living up to ideals that can light the world.

    You can check out the full text of the President’s remarks here and a fact sheet on U.S. Support for Open Government here.

  • City in a Box: Municipal Makeover Comes to Texas

    Today I am in Manor, Texas (pop. 6,500), to celebrate the burgeoning open government movement underway in America’s towns and cities. Manor is embracing the Obama Administration's vision of creating effective and efficient government that fosters transparency and innovation. By using new technology to enable open and collaborative ways of working, government—whether federal, state, or local—can deliver better citizen services with fewer resources.