Open Government Initiative Blog
Live from the White House Summit on Promoting Innovation through Prizes, Challenges and Open GrantmakingPosted byon April 30, 2010 at 10:36 AM EST
At today's summit on Promoting Innovation: Prizes, Challenge and Open Grantmaking, two leading experts on the use of prizes to solve problems addressed the assembled gathering. Leaders from over thirty Federal agencies have come to learn about how to incorporate prizes and incentive-backed challenges into their work of addressing complex policy problems.
Peter Diamandis, CEO of the X-Prize Foundation, described the importance of prizes to provide the incentives for "radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity." The X PRIZE Foundation is an "educational nonprofit organization whose mission is to create radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity thereby inspiring the formation of new industries, jobs and the revitalization of markets that are currently stuck."
According to Diamandis, if a new prize is designed correctly it can bring 10-40 fold the size of the purse in innovation. Prizes also create a collaborative and open environment that stimulates innovation. Incentive backed challenges attract "maverick thinkers who challenge normal assumptions" and make heroes of the teams who compete in these paradigm-changing efforts to solve significant social problems like building the ultimate fuel-efficient car or developing a lunar landing vehicle.
The X-Prize Foundation has established X-Prize Labs at several universities. In these interdisciplinary graduate level courses, students learn about the history of prizes and think about root cause problems. The best ideas they develop may become X-Prizes -- competitions that generally take between 3 and 8 years to win.
Among the X-Prizes currently underway or being planned include the Progressive Automotive X-Prize, a $10 million purse to be awarded in September 2010 to the teams that win a competition for clean, production-capable vehicles that exceed 100 MPG energy equivalent; a $10 million prize to sequence 100 human genomes in 10 days; a $10 million "African entrepreneurship" prize to the team whose graduates create the most new "beneficial jobs" over 5 years.
Next Jonathan Bays of McKinsey & Company, and author of the recent report "And the winner is... Capturing the Promise of Philanthropic Prizes" walked the audience through a history of prizes, such as the longitude prize, which awarded $2 million of today's dollars to the inventor who could develop a way of precisely determining a ship’s longitude (1714) and the French government’s food preservation prize that led to long-shelf life canned foods that awarded $44,000 of today's dollars. Prizes have historically been used to solve difficult and pressing problems. Today they are experiencing a resurgence ($250 million in prize capital for prizes of $100,000 or more has been raised since 2000) and offer many strengths. Prizes identify excellence by rewarding path-breaking innovators. They focus a community and public perception on a particular problem. Prizes help to mobilize new talent and pull unexpected people into developing solutions. Often the solvers of prize-backed challenges are the people whom one would least expect to be working in the field. Prizes educate competitors and build skills. They bring additional capital to problems by mobilizing funds and give innovators access to facilities and resources.
Bays explained that there are different types of prizes such as participation prizes that bring people together to solve a problem; exemplar prizes like the Nobel or Man Booker prize, network prizes that stimulate the creation of communities and networks that outlast the prize; and exposition prizes like Ashoka Changemakers designed to focus on a specific need. In developing a prize, it is crucial to articulate the goals and objectives before jumping to designing the prize. After the aspirations are defined, then one can develop the prize strategy by identifying stakeholder needs and prize types. The prize elements and prize process -- the precise way in which the prize event will unfold -- can be developed. Equally important, he pointed out, is to spend time designing the post-prize process. That's when the impact of the prize is measured, reinforced and the legacy of the problem and the solutions generated by the prize will be rooted in the community.
Beth Noveck is United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer and Director of the White House Open Government Initiative.
White House and Case Foundation Host Summit on Promoting Innovation: Prizes, Challenges and Open GrantmakingPosted byon April 30, 2010 at 9:05 AM EST
Ed. note: Beth Noveck and staff from the Office of Science and Technology Policy will be live-blogging from the Promoting Innovation: Prizes, Challenges and Open Grantmaking summit all day on the Open Government Blog.
Last month, the Administration issued its Guidance on the Use of Challenges and Prizes to Promote Open Government. The Guidance provides a policy and legal framework for the use of prizes and challenges to promote open government, innovation, and other national priorities. Today the White House and the Case Foundation are hosting a summit on Promoting Innovation: Prizes, Challenges and Open Grantmaking. The day is organized into a combination of presentations and panels, breakout roundtables, and Ignite Sessions all designed to deepen our understanding of how to incorporate prizes and other innovative techniques into the way we solve complex economic and social problems.
There are over 200 public and private sector participants at this event, learning from one another how to bring innovation to policymaking.
You can see the program here. While the speeches and panels will be broadcast online next week, today you can watch live interviews with the speakers, including Sonal Shah of the Domestic Policy Council, Peter Diamandis of the X-Prize Foundation, Bonin Bough of PepsiCo, and Jim Shelton of the Department of Education.
We welcome your participation in this event. Before and during the sessions, you can submit questions via Twitter, using the hashtag #opengov, via email at email@example.com or by using the interactive chat window on the Case Foundation website available during the sessions.
Beth Noveck is United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer and Director of the White House Open Government Initiative.
- Posted byon April 29, 2010 at 11:02 AM EST
Each day 14 workers die in our country from traumatic injuries. That means more than 5,000 people are killed on the job every year. Tens of thousands more die each year of work related diseases. In addition, more than 4.6 million are seriously injured. While those numbers are alarming enough, what troubles me is that most – if not all of these – are injuries and fatalities that could have been easily prevented.
Yesterday, on Workers Memorial Day, we remembered those killed on the job and recommitted ourselves to ensuring that future tragedies are prevented. As a part of this effort and the Department of Labor’s continued emphasis on greater transparency, through the White House Open Government Initiative, we released 15 years of valuable data detailing workplace exposure to toxic chemicals.
This Chemical Exposure Health Data is comprised of measurements taken during the course of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspections and includes exposure levels to hazardous chemicals including asbestos, benzene, beryllium, cadmium, lead, nickel, silica, and others.
Making this dataset available to the public for the first time will offer new insight into the levels of toxic chemicals commonly found in workplaces, as well as how exposures to specific chemicals are distributed across industries, geographical areas and time. This information will ultimately lead to a more robust and focused debate on what still needs to be done to protect workers in all sectors, especially in the chemical industry.
So what does this mean for you? For starters, those of you who are technically inclined, please help develop software (e.g. search and visualization tools) to enable all of us to know if any chemical hazards have been reported in our workplace or see which occupations have a greater risk of exposure to certain chemicals. This information is also a great way to make sure that companies and businesses in your area are doing all that they can to minimize chemical exposure as your neighbors. You could even combine our data with other useful datasets like the National Institutes of Health “Haz-Map” database to help diagnose exposure related illnesses more quickly. If you build any useful tools using this data, let us know by submitting your tool via the Developer’s Corner on Data.gov. Most importantly, whether you’re a software developer, an employer, or a worker – with this data you’ll be able to arm yourself with the information you need to make your workplace a safer workplace.
The mission of the Department of Labor as a worker protection agency is more clear and needed than ever and opening this data to the public is a valuable means of strengthening the tools available to us. With a renewed emphasis on protecting workers and businesses that do the right thing, our goal is simple: Save Lives.
Dr. David Michaels is the Assistant Secretary for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor.
- Posted byon April 27, 2010 at 11:05 AM EST
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.
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.
- Posted byon April 20, 2010 at 6:42 PM EST
In an exciting advance for the global data transparency movement, the World Bank today launched its Open Data Initiative, releasing more than 2000 data sets that document human development worldwide, including health, business, finance, environment, and social welfare statistics. This is a big deal for openness in development: not only are these high-quality and often unique data sets, but until today they have been available only to paying subscribers.
The World Bank's new Open Data site has a lot of features that impress us here at the White House Open Government Initiative. The data catalog is well-organized and easy to navigate, with breakdowns by country, topic, and statistical indicator. Some 330 of the data sets have been translated into French, Spanish, and Arabic, with more languages to come. And there are some good, lightweight, built-in visualization tools -- for example, check out the charts available in the country profile for Rwanda. We especially like the URL (data.worldbank.org), which echoes our own Data.gov.
Perhaps best of all, the World Bank also released an iPhone app called DataFinder, which enables data search and charts/visualizations on the fly.
Finally, we're impressed by the World Bank's plan to encourage the development of applications that make innovative use of all this open data through an "Apps for Development" challenge later this year.
Rowdy applause and congratulations to the World Bank team. You've raised the bar on open data.
Andrew McLaughlin is Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer.
- Posted byon April 8, 2010 at 4:49 PM EST
Yesterday President Obama hailed the release of the open government plans by all Cabinet agencies. The President recognized that innovation flourishes in an open environment, where we work collaboratively to share new ideas and ingenuity from a wide array of contributors for the betterment of our nation.
These plans are the agencies’ strategic roadmap for making openness -- transparency, citizen participation, and collaboration -- part of the way that the federal government works. Aneesh Chopra and Norm Eisen posted the announcement yesterday. Today we want to tell you more about what you will find in these Open Government Plans that are nothing short of an historic effort by the Executive Branch to change the culture of Washington for the better by inviting the American people into a collaboration: government of, for, by and now with the people.
The plans are chock full of examples of concrete efforts -- not lip service -- to making open government happen in practice and creating genuine opportunity for meaningful and practical civic engagement.
Transparency is one of the core principles of democracy. By communicating what we do and how we do it, we can foster accountability and trust in government. This is why it is exciting that Housing and Urban Development is recording all public events and making them available online. The Department of Education is publishing Secretary Arne Duncan’s schedule for all to see. Social Security is unveiling new tools on its website to help people (including Spanish speakers) more easily find information and services on the web and, in the event they aren’t web-literate to schedule an in-office appointment.
The agencies have also been tasked with making the data and information they hold available online in open formats. The Department of Labor announced the release of its new Online Enforcement Database – making all workplace safety data searchable and available in one place and, perhaps more important, a schedule with accountable milestones for identifying and posting even more data. Health and Human Services is publishing a large-scale community health data set -- a wealth of easily accessible, downloadable information data on community health care costs, quality, access, and public health.
Department of Justice is building a “Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Dashboard” to “shine a light” on the government’s compliance with FOIA. Not only will this visual report promote transparency, it should encourage Departments to compete to improve their FOIA compliance. Already two more Departments -- Health and Human Services and Department of Energy -- announced new FOIA programs in their plans to ensure that the public gets the information they request faster.
The agency open government plans also detail how government officials (without the need for legislation, regulation, or new budgets) are breaking down barriers between government and the public and inviting greater public participation in agency decisionmaking. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency is making citizen participation in its work the hallmark of its plan. Planned community engagement projects include everything from urban waters to solid waste and emergency response. U.S. Department of Agriculture is also ramping up its participation efforts in connection with the rules by which the nation plans its national forests. Department of Energy is creating the first ever open energy information platform that not only provisions government data about energy but invites the public to participate and share its data in an effort to create more informed energy usage and promote energy savings. The National Science Foundation’s flagship is to invest in studying citizen participation best practices and thereby help every agency do more participation better!
Working together within departments, across agencies and with private sector partners is a fundament of the open government initiative, which looks for strategies to generate creative thinking and new ideas to address complex problems. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), where I am at home, created a new physical office space -- we’ve gotten rid of walls and cubes -- and work in a collaborative physical environment to foster collaboration within OSTP. Department of Housing and Urban Development has committed to a collaborative effort across federal, state, and local government to share information and thereby prevent the spread of homelessness. NASA has created the contributor license agreement, a special contract to encourage software developers to contribute to ongoing NASA projects and, in turn, have the benefit of access to NASA technologies. This is just one part of NASA’s participatory space exploration efforts that engage the public in the work and the fun of space activities. GSA is making a lot of this collaboration possible by supplying web-based collaboration platforms to every agency that wants one.
This is just a handful of the many and varied projects underway. Because each agency is doing its own plan, we will get the benefit of distributed innovation. One will try webcasting and another a data transparency initiative and then be able to learn from one another.
So please dig in! Adopt a plan. Read it. And tell us how we can do things better. In the process, we hope to reinvigorate a shared sense of civic virtue born out of a common love for this democracy.
To find a list of all the plans go to: http://www.whitehouse.gov/open/around
To read highlights of the plans go to: http://www.whitehouse.gov/open/documents/flagship-initiatives
Beth Noveck is United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer and Director of the White House Open Government Initiative
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