Open Government Initiative Blog
- Posted byon January 27, 2010 at 12:05 PM EST
Now that the Administration has served for more than a year, we are starting to see real progress on the openness and transparency front. For the most part, we have gotten high marks in this area, but we take exception to the views expressed in a Washington Post story today.
The Post acknowledges that, in his first full day in office, the President directed federal agencies to become more open, including by applying a presumption of openness to requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act. The Post questions whether these policies are having a real impact.
The numbers demonstrate that they are. Contrary to the Post's assertions, the amount of litigation is already declining. The Department of Justice found that 22 fewer FOIA cases were filed in 2009 than 2008. And agencies are making more voluntary releases of information. The Department of Justice granted 13 percent more FOIA requests in part in 2009 than it did in the last year of the previous Administration, and granted 5 percent more in full than it did in the previous year. Those are meaningful increases that illustrate the impact of the Administration’s FOIA policy.
The government isn’t just being more open when people ask for information. At the White House and across the agencies, we are using innovative platforms to engage citizens in shaping government policy. And in some instances we are taking actions to make government more open and transparent that prevent Americans from needing to file FOIA requests at all. The President issued an executive order to make it easier for the public to access historic records that are currently classified but no longer need to be kept secret to protect national security. Data.gov now hosts over 1,000 sets of government information available for download, and agencies' websites are being constantly updated to include more content. And for the first time in history, the White House is voluntarily publishing visitor records online – enabling the American people to see who is visiting the people's house. Click here for a list of our open government accomplishments so far.
We did this in the first year of the Administration, even though some said it would be impossible to change entrenched governmental practices on an issue like FOIA. We recognize that this is just a start, and that there is much more work to be done. Change takes time and persistence, and we expect government to become even more open in the years to come. But we know we have established a firm foundation and we are moving in the right direction.
Norm Eisen is special counsel to the President for ethics and government reform
- Posted byon January 23, 2010 at 2:00 PM EST
On December 8, 2009, the Administration issued the Open Government Directive to hardwire the values of transparency, participation and collaboration into the DNA of the Federal government. Around here, we call the general effort "Open Gov." You can learn more about it here: WhiteHouse.gov/open.
As part of the Directive, federal agencies have answered the President’s call by democratizing hundreds of high-value datasets on every aspect of government operations. While this is meaningful for the technology community and transparency advocates who have been working on this issue for years, the data released will have direct impact on the daily lives of the American people. Here are three examples to consider:
- Parents can make better decisions when buying a car seat for their newborn because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released data rating child safety seats for ease of use, simplicity of instructions and vehicle installation features
- Consumers can make intelligent decisions when buying a car because the Department of Transportation released details behind automobile safety and crash ratings gathered during crash and rollover tests conducted at their research facilities
- As Norm Eisen mentioned in his earlier post (which has a few other good examples), entrepreneurs, researchers and healthcare professionals can access Medicare Part B data to analyze the cost, volume and types of services delivered to meet the needs of Medicare beneficiaries because the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has released data that used to cost $100 and was delivered on CD-ROM, for free via Data.gov
The Obama Administration is committed to unlocking public data to drive innovation by tapping into the ingenuity of the American people; increase agency accountability; and change the default setting of Washington to be open, transparent and participatory. For far too long, government data has been locked within the four walls of Washington and confined to a selected group of people. President Obama has said, “information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset.” This is why, on his first full day in office, the President charged agencies to harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online.
To institutionalize a culture of open government, on February 6 we will launch a public dashboard to provide an ongoing assessment of the Executive Branch’s progress against the Directive. You'll be able to find that at WhiteHouse.gov/open.
Vivek Kundra is the Federal Chief Information Officer
- Posted byon January 23, 2010 at 12:12 PM EST
If you visit data.gov, you’ll find a wide array of new, high-value datasets that federal agencies have uploaded pursuant to the Open Government Directive. This information serves two valuable functions. First, it facilitates private innovation by allowing entrepreneurs, scientists, and others to utilize raw data to build new services and conduct insightful studies that serve Americans. Second, citizens will also be able to use this data to hold government accountable—again, so it can better serve the people.
For example, the Department of Education posted two data sets that will enable parents to better understand education outcomes and financing. The TIMSS 2007 Public-Use Datafile is a school- based assessment that provides descriptive data on the educational outcomes of U.S. fourth- and eighth-graders in mathematics and science. And the CCD: School District Financial Survey collects data on revenues and expenditures for each public, elementary and secondary education school district in the United States. Releasing data like this allows parents and teachers to ensure that their tax dollars are being well used and to track the progress of American STEM education.
Another important example is the Medicare Part B Extract Summary System Data. This dataset from the Department of Health and Human Services provides detailed breakdowns of volume of physician services delivered to Medicare beneficiaries and payments for those services by individual procedure code (e.g., by type of anesthesiology service, cardiology service, etc.). This data can be used to look at patterns of Medicare spending and analyze the types of services delivered to address the health needs of the Medicare population. Researchers and others used to have to pay to get this on a CD-ROM – now it can be downloaded for free at data.gov.
Here’s one last example of how we are helping you hold government accountable. The Social Security Administration posted two data sets – Hearing Office Average Processing Time Ranking Report and Hearing Office Dispositions Per ALJ Per Day Rate Ranking Report. They give you information on how long it takes different parts of the country to process social security adjudications. You’ll be able to tell how your area is doing, and give the Administration feedback and direction in that regard. And we hope you will.
Norm Eisen is Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform
- Posted byon January 22, 2010 at 7:10 PM EST
Cross-posted from the OSTP blog
Today marks the first milestone called for in the Administration’s Open Government Directive — a call for agencies to make available at least three new, high-value data sets in machine-readable format. Thanks to the terrific responsiveness of our cabinet agencies, the public now has a new trove of government data at its fingertips.
To demonstrate our commitment to this Presidential priority, and to reflect the same spirit we exhibited in drafting our open government recommendations consistent with the values of transparency and accountability, we are pleased to report the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s contribution to this remarkable effort.
Furthering our mission to fuel innovation through strategic investments in science and technology research and development, OSTP today shares with the public the following three data sets:
A Decade of Investments in Innovation Coordinated through the National Nanotechnology Initiative
The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) coordinates Federal nanotechnology research and development among 25 Federal agencies. The data released represent NNI investments by agency and program component area (PCA) from the Initiative’s founding in FY 2001 through FY 2010 (requested). These data have been available as part of the NNI’s annual supplements to the President’s Budget. But compared to earlier releases, the data as presented here are more accessible and readily available for analysis by users wishing to assess trends and examine investment allocations over the 10-year history of the NNI. The cumulative NNI investment of nearly $12 billion is advancing our understanding of the unique phenomena and processes that occur at the nanoscale and is helping leverage that knowledge to speed innovation in high-impact opportunity areas such as energy, security, and medicine.
Aggregated Federal R&D Investments in Networking and Information Technology Coordinated through the National Coordination Office for Networking and Information Technology Research and Development
Thirteen Federal agencies, including all of the large science and technology agencies, as well as a number of other Federal entities, are formal members of the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program. The National Coordination Office supports the NITRD Program, which is the primary mechanism by which the Government coordinates its unclassified networking and information technology (IT) research and development (R&D) investments. The data released today allow individuals to track funding trends and identify agencies with investments in technical areas of interest, and can help entrepreneurs and grant seekers better direct their efforts to engage the correct Federal agency. Currently two years (FY2009 and FY2010) of budget numbers are being posted but additional information going back 15 years will be posted shortly.
Interagency Investments in Climate Research and Observations Coordinated through the U.S. Global Change Research Program
The U.S. Global Change Research Program coordinates and integrates federal research on changes in the global environment and their implications for society. The data released today quantify the budget authorities for individual Agency activities in which the primary focus is on observations, research, and analysis of climate change and its underlying causes, as well as such activities as management and distribution of climate data records, modeling and predicting of climate change, analysis of impacts of climate change, and preparation of information in support of climate-change adaptation and mitigation policymaking. These data were available previously in printed annual reports (“Our Changing Planet”) since 1990 and in other formats in some years since then but have never before been compiled in one, accessible, machine-readable format. This allows an array of new trend analyses and provides transparency about government investments in these important areas of research and Earth observation.
OSTP is proud to be part of the growing movement for greater transparency in government. We hope you will explore the information lode being released today and use your creativity to make the most of it.
Aneesh Chopra is the United States Chief Technology Officer
- Posted byon January 21, 2010 at 12:28 PM EST
Taking a page from our efforts here in the Obama Administration, the United Kingdom today launched data.gov.uk – a site to aggregate datasets from the UK government. It is exciting to see the seeds of openness, accountability, and transparency taking root around the world.
When we launched Data.gov here at the White House website in May 2009, we had just 47 datasets online. It was a modest start, but the growth we’ve seen has been phenomenal. Today, there are more than 168,000 datasets online, and federal agencies are poised to publish new high-value information this week as the next step in Administration’s Open Government Initiative.
But the U.S. and UK governments aren’t alone in data sites. There is a nationwide movement to unlock public data. Governments of all sizes are unlocking the value of data for their constituents. Washington, D.C., San Francisco, the City of New York, the State of California, the State of Utah, the State of Michigan, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have launched data.gov-type sites, as have cities in Canada and the UK. All of these sites are dedicated to breaking down longstanding barriers between governments and the people they serve -- facilitating collaboration and transforming dry data into tools that can improve people’s lives.
As we grow Data.gov across the Administration, we are focused on releasing high-value datasets to increase agency accountability and responsiveness; improve public knowledge of the agency and its operations; create economic opportunity; or respond to need and demand as identified through public consultation.
For instance, when the Department of Agriculture makes nutrition information available, families can make smarter eating choices; when the Department of Education makes key information available about colleges and universities, students can make better-informed choices about the quality and cost of education; and when the Department of Labor makes safety information available, employers can better protect workers.
The Federal Government does not have a monopoly on the best ideas. We are all part of an increasingly complex network of communities, ideas, and information. We applaud today’s launch of data.gov.uk and look forward to working with the international community to ensure that people across the world are actively engaged in helping find the most innovative paths to solve some of the toughest problems we face. Moreover, we are pleased to see that other governments share the Administration's philosophy that data availability will help change how government operates and empower citizens to participate in making government services more effective, accessible, and transparent.
Vivek Kundra is U.S. Chief Information Officer
- Posted byon January 14, 2010 at 2:26 PM EST
The Department of Labor has teamed with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to create a new website that brings together more than 600 online job search and career advancement tools.
The Job Tools for America's Job Seekers Challenge is using the power of crowd-sourcing to get your input on what tools work best, and what you would like to see improved.
During December we recruited businesses, entrepreneurs, non-profit groups and others to share their online job tools with us at www.dol.gov/challenge. And the response has been terrific.
From national job boards, to industry and occupation-focused niche tools – the Challenge has attracted nearly resources from across the spectrum.
Now, it's your turn.
Through Friday, January 15, we are asking you to review the tools posted on our Challenge site, recommend the ones you like best, and give feedback on what works when it comes to online career resources. But, just as important, use this site as a resource to apply for openings at companies and organizations that are seeking talented workers now.
Also, pass the link on to others who might be interested in taking part in the challenge, or to those who just want a one-stop online resource bursting with useful job information.
We are already seeing this become a great competition among a number of the sites, and are looking forward to seeing which tools rise to the top in the different categories. At the end of January we’ll publish which tools received the most recommendations.
And the best part is this website will remain active as a source for information about all of the resources that took part in the Challenge -- an easy-to-access online gateway to jobs in nearly every occupation and location nationwide.
I encourage you to visit the site, try out some of the resources, and let us know what you think. Together we can help get America back to work.Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.
Hilda Solis is Secretary of Labor
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