Open Government Initiative Blog
- Posted byon April 8, 2010 at 1:39 PM EST
Yesterday, all cabinet agencies, and others including my home, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, reported to the American people detailed plans on how they would demonstrate the President’s vision for a Washington that works -- a government that is more transparent, participatory and collaborative.
We began this journey on the President’s first full day in office when he signed a Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government. By December, following an unprecedented dialogue with the American people in crafting recommendations, Peter Orszag, OMB Director, issued an Open Government Directive directing agencies to reflect the President’s vision in their own words.
The Directive demanded action measured in weeks, not years. It tasked me, along with my colleague, Federal CIO Vivek Kundra, with holding agencies accountable through the publication of an online dashboard. While today marks the final set of deliverables formally outlined in the Directive, Vivek and I view it as the beginning of our journey to instill these values into the culture of Washington.
Here’s our plan to do so:
First, Vivek and I, along with others in the White House, will assess agency Open Government plans against the criteria contained within the Open Government Directive and will publish our findings on the dashboard.
The results of this assessment will be released by no later than May 1st. Watch this blog for interim updates as we proceed with the evaluation.
Second, we also invite you to be a part of the feedback process to the agencies. We hope and trust that independent experts, stakeholders and the American people will review and comment on the plans, including how they can improve as they are revised moving forward Please share your thoughts on each agency’s Open Government Plan by visiting the agency websites and providing your comments. Each agency designed their plan to reflect its approach to openness and they and we will actively seek your input as we deliver on the President’s promise to change the way Washington works.
Third, we and our colleagues will review agency nominations for achievement of leading practices to celebrate outstanding efforts that will inspire others through a “race to the top” among government agencies in the practice of openness.
As background, a group of agency leaders within the Open Government Working Group, led by Todd Park, the Chief Technology Officer for the Department of Health and Human Services, after consultation with outside experts, developed an aspirational set of Open Government Leading Practices. They focused on four major categories:
- Leadership, Governance and Culture Change
- Participation and Collaboration
- Flagship Initiative
By April 19th, agencies will be eligible to nominate specific initiatives within their plan for recognition under Leading Practices. By May 1st, we will recognize agencies on the Open Government Dashboard.
Thanks, in advance, for your participation. You can always send us e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Posted byon April 7, 2010 at 12:00 PM EST
Today, U.S. departments and agencies are releasing their Open Government Plans -- another historic milestone in President Obama's campaign to change Washington.
For too many years, Washington has resisted the oversight of the American public, resulting in difficulties in finding information, taxpayer dollars disappearing without a trace, and lobbyists wielding undue influence. For Americans, business as usual in Washington has reinforced the belief that the government benefits the special interests and the well-connected at the expense of the American people.
No more. Since coming to office, the President has launched a series of initiatives to let the sunshine in, including posting White House visitor records, disclosing lobbyist contacts regarding stimulus funds, and launching data.gov and recovery.gov. That's why independent groups recently gave the Administration an A grade for transparency.
Today we add to that body of accomplishments as the departments and agencies issue Open Government Plans pursuant to the Open Government Directive. The Plans will make operations and data more transparent, and expand opportunities for citizen participation, collaboration, and oversight. These steps will strengthen our democracy and promote accountability, efficiency and effectiveness across the government. Here are a few highlights:
- Department of Health and Human Services' Community Health Data Initiative: This initiative will provide to the public, free of charge and of any intellectual property constraint, a large-scale Community Health Data Set harvested from across HHS—this data set includes a wealth of easily accessible, downloadable data on community health care costs, quality, access, and public health, including a major contribution of Medicare-related data from CMS. The initiative is simultaneously working with a growing array of technology companies, researchers, public health advocates, consumer advocates, employers, media, providers, etc. to identify and deploy uses of the data that would be most effective at raising awareness of community health performance and helping to facilitate and inform improvement efforts. Such applications and programs could include interactive health maps, competitions, and social networking games that educate people about community health and enhanced web search results for health searches. By leveraging the power of transparency, participation, and collaboration, the Community Health Data Initiative seeks to help significantly improve the health of our communities. (Department of Health and Human Service's Open Government page)
- Department of Energy's Open Energy Information Initiative: As part of its efforts to promote clean energy technologies, DOE has launched Open Energy Information, a new open-source web platform that will make DOE resources and open energy data widely available to the public. The data and tools housed on the free, editable and evolving wiki-platform will be used by government officials, the private sector, project developers, the international community, and others to help deploy clean energy technologies across the country and around the world. The site currently houses more than 60 clean energy resources and data sets, including maps of worldwide solar and wind potential, information on climate zones, and best practices. Members of the American public and the energy community globally will have the opportunity to upload additional data to the site and download the information in easy-to-use formats. OpenEI.org will also play an important role providing technical resources, including U.S. lab tools, which can be used by developing countries as they move toward clean energy deployment. Over time, the plan is to expand this portal to include on-line training and technical expert networks. (Department of Energy Open Government page)
- Department of Veterans Affairs Innovation Initiative: The VA Innovation Initiative (VAi2) will invite VA employees, private sector entrepreneurs, and academic leaders to contribute the best ideas for innovations to increase Veteran access to VA services, reduce or control costs of delivering those services, enhance the performance of VA operations, and improve the quality of service Veterans and their families receive. The VA Innovation Initiative will identify, prioritize, fund, test, and deploy the most promising solutions to the VA's most important challenges. (Department of Veterans Affairs Open Government page)
- Department of Housing and Urban Development's Homelessness Prevention Resources Initiative: Many agencies and organizations struggle with the task of capturing information about the homeless. Even more difficult is the task of predicting when and where homelessness will strike. HUD believes that much can be done to avert homelessness before it happens by actively combining information from multiple Agencies and using it to identify communities that may be at a tipping point towards increased levels of homelessness. Aligning with HUD's strategic initiatives, the Department will take a proactive leadership role in the Administration's efforts to end homelessness. HUD will develop a set of tools and processes that can help predict communities that are at risk so that resources can be allocated to help avoid homelessness from occurring. The Department's effort is unique because it will seek to predict the future course of homelessness in a community, and allow HUD to proactively allocate the resources necessary to combat it. (Department of Housing and Urban Development's Open Government page)
These are just a few examples -- visit our Open Government Dashboard for links to others. Publishing these plans demonstrates once again this Administration's commitment to be the most open and transparent in history. Of course, much work remains to be done and we invite you to be a part of that by visiting the agency websites at name of agency/open and providing your comments on version 1.0 of the plans. That will help us and the agencies make the plans even better.
Norm Eisen is Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform
- Posted byon March 30, 2010 at 1:58 PM EST
On the OSTP blog, United States CTO Aneesh Chopra announces the release of a follow-up plan to the White House Forum on Modernizing Government, identifying areas where private sector best practices have applicability to the Federal Government.
- Posted byon March 26, 2010 at 1:41 PM EST
In September, the President announced that – for the first time in history – the White House would release visitor records. Today, the White House releases its largest set of records to date – nearly 120,000 records that were created in December 2009. This release brings the grand total of records that this White House has released to well over 250,000 records. You can view them all in our Disclosures section.
Norm Eisen is Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform
- Posted byon March 19, 2010 at 5:47 PM EST
In previous administrations, stakeholders have complained about the FDA’s lack of transparency. The agency used to be considered a "black box" that makes important decisions without explaining them. Following the leadership and commitment of President Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to transparent and open government, in June 2009, FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg launched FDA’s Transparency Initiative to make FDA much more transparent to the American public.
Commissioner Hamburg formed an internal task force representing key leaders of FDA to oversee the initiative. Over the last eight months, the Task Force has held two public meetings, launched an online blog and opened a docket. The online blog and the docket have received over 1,380 comments to date.
Comments from the public first suggested the idea that FDA provide basic information about the agency in an user-friendly, accessible format. As one person stated, "I would like to see the FDA ‘faces behind the curtain’ and what their jobs are. Who IS the FDA and HOW does it work? Make it simple . . ."
Early this year, FDA launched a web-based resource called FDA Basics to provide the public with basic information about FDA and how the agency does its work. FDA Basics now includes:
- 115 questions and answers about FDA and the products the agency regulates (for example, see questions about drugs here)
- 7 short videos that explain various agency activities (for example, learn how FDA manages product recalls here )
- 7 conversations with agency officials about the work of their Offices
Visitors to FDA Basics can rate on a scale from 1 to 5 how helpful the answers are. And visitors are invited to suggest additional questions as they navigate around the site. We have received nearly 1400 comments since the launch of FDA Basics and are using these comments to update the resource.
Each month, senior officials from FDA product centers and offices host 30 minute webinars about a specific topic and answer questions from the public about that topic. These sessions are announced on the FDA web site and the online blog.
The FDA Basics webinar series was launched in February with a webinar on "Access to Investigational Drugs," hosted by FDA’s Office of Special Health Issues. An audio replay and copy of the PowerPoint slides are available on the FDA Basics web site. The next webinar on FDA's inspection process will be held later this month. Details about the webinar will be available on the FDA Basics homepage.
Early reaction to FDA Basics has been positive. One blogger wrote, "[t]he initiative can go a long way toward educating the public about what FDA does—and how—and also provide industry with real-time answers to their daily challenges, ultimately improving product quality and patient safety." Another blogger wrote, "[i]t is really well put together, clear and works quite well. . . . The site is not only supportive of transparency, but is highly instructive and educational."
Check out FDA Basics and let us know what you think.
Joshua Sharfstein is Principal Deputy Commissioner at FDA and Chair of the Transparency Task Force. Afia Asamoah is a Special Assistant in the Office of the Commissioner and coordinator of the Transparency Initiative.
- Posted byon March 11, 2010 at 10:01 AM EST
I just returned from a productive trip to the West Coast, where I met with technology innovators from the private sector and state and local governments to hear their ideas about how the Federal Government can leverage the power of technology to deliver better results for the American people. As I’ve said before, the Federal Government does not have a monopoly on the best ideas, and in order to truly change business as usual here in Washington -- we’ve got to look beyond the Beltway.
The Obama Administration is committed to making the Federal Government work better for the American people. Closing the technology gap between the private and public sectors is essential to delivering the best results possible. That is why I returned to the West Coast to continue to meet with leaders who have taken innovative steps and implemented bold strategies to drive progress and productivity.
The power of raw data to provide consumers with relevant information and inform their decisions is already being realized. For example, as I was heading to the airport, I used “FlyOnTime.us” to check if my flight was on time and to see what the wait in line would be. This innovative website was created by a group of independent developers using Data.gov.
My first stop was San Francisco, where I joined Mayor Gavin Newsom and city CIO Chris Vein for the launch of the nationwide Open311 API (Application Programming Interface) initiative, which will open up access to local government services across the country. Open311 will enable people to track the status of repairs or improvements, while also allowing them to make new requests for services. For example, I can use the same application when I am home in Washington, DC to report a broken parking meter as I would in San Francisco. I also spoke to CIOs from Boston, Chicago, DC, Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco about accelerating the development of applications that the American people can use in their everyday lives.
From downtown San Francisco, it was out to Silicon Valley to meet with venture capitalists and technology innovators, including Mint.com, Mozilla, and Facebook, at IDEO Labs to discuss how government can improve how it is delivering services to the American people. We used a visual storyboard concept to capture our conversation, which you can see here.
Later that afternoon, I met with companies like Apple and Google to learn how innovation is happening in the consumer space, through new platforms such as Apple’s online App Store.
On Thursday, I travelled to the “other” Washington, where I started the day with CIOs from organizations such as Weyerhaeuser and Microsoft to hear about how they successfully manage large-scale IT projects. I also had the opportunity to look at some of the impressive investments in next generation technologies being made by companies like Microsoft and Amazon.
I then delivered a speech at the University of Washington titled “Making Government Work: Closing the Technology Gap to Deliver for the American People.” I was very encouraged by the response and was pleasantly surprised when following my speech, dozens of professors and students lined up to ask questions and continue the dialogue.
At the end of the day, I attended an industry awards celebration for local technology entrepreneurs, hosted by the Washington Technology Industry Association. It was great to see entrepreneurs from the “other” Washington talk to me about their ideas for helping us change the way Washington, DC works.
Vivek Kundra is U.S. Chief Information Officer
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